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Haiti Violence
“We need to recognize that this is not a time to force people back into Haiti in the middle of a very uncertain and potentially violent situation,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren told NOTUS. Ramon Espinosa/AP

‘We’re Sending People to Their Death’: Activists Are Furious at Biden for Deportations to Haiti

Immigration rights advocates and progressive Democrats want the Biden administration to expand protections for Haitians rather than send migrants back.

Organizers and legislators believe the Biden administration is contradicting its commitments to human rights by deporting people to Haiti despite intense violence there.

“We’re sending people to their death who have no criminal background or history,” Tessa Petit, executive director of the Florida Immigrant Coalition, told NOTUS. “[The administration is] not following their priorities and just continued deportations the minute they realized there was still an open airport in Haiti.”

Violence in Haiti has effectively triggered a security and humanitarian crisis, and gangs control about 80% of the nation’s capital, according to the State Department. The Biden administration has worked to get U.S. citizens off the island and is currently determining whether to extend temporary protected status, or TPS, for some Haitians already living in the U.S. so they can remain here.

Meanwhile, the Biden administration has continued deporting Haitians. One removal flight in April happened less than a week after the U.S. concluded evacuation flights of its own citizens.

“We need to recognize that this is not a time to force people back into Haiti in the middle of a very uncertain and potentially violent situation,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren told NOTUS. “The conditions there are worse than they were when TPS was first created.”

Immigrant rights advocates said the administration has also been unclear about how it will handle the Aug. 3 deadline on whether to extend and redesignate TPS for Haiti. Under the current TPS designation, Haitians who have resided in the U.S. since November 2022 can apply for protections that allow them to stay and work legally because their home country is deemed unsafe.

The administration could choose to expand TPS to Haitians who entered the country more recently. It could also extend the current plan, or it could let TPS for Haiti expire entirely, putting those who have it at risk of eventual deportation.

Warren and other Democratic legislators have called for the administration to extend TPS for Haitians.

“It’s one of the most pressing and heartbreaking humanitarian crises there is, and it’s in our backyard,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal told NOTUS. “We have a responsibility to address it now. The gang violence and famine and medical emergencies ought to command our attention.”

It seems like an obvious answer to advocates, some of whom said they can’t get a straight response from the administration on its plans.

“In our conversations with the administration, we’ll have one department tell us they are considering TPS for Haiti, and then we hear official notices in the press that say they’re not,” Petit said. “There is so much politics around immigration that what we think would be a no-brainer for the administration is being toyed with too long.”

The White House did not respond to a request for comment.

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NBC reported in late March that two U.S. officials said the current crisis had not led the U.S. to consider granting TPS to more Haitians and that the administration would not change the policy of returning Haitians interdicted at sea because they think it could lead to mass migration.

Immigrant rights advocates fear the Biden administration’s approach could set a bad example for how other countries and leaders in the U.S. treat Haitian migrants.

Within the U.S., Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis sent national and state guard troops to South Florida to intercept any Haitian migrants attempting to enter and threatened to send them to other states. Indiana passed a law that would allow only Ukrainians on humanitarian parole to receive driver’s licenses; a federal judge struck down that provision in January after a lawsuit from Haitian immigrants arguing that the law was discriminatory.

The Dominican Republic deported more than 250,000 Haitians last year and has continued removals to the neighboring island. In late March, the Bahamas sent over 260 Haitians back to the country by boat. Authorities in Turks and Caicos have intercepted several vessels transporting Haitians to the country.

“The U.S. continuing to enable the mistreatment and violation of the rights of Haitians is really taking the lead in the hemisphere,” said Gabrielle Apollon, director of the Haitian Immigrant Rights Project at NYU School of Law’s Global Justice Clinic. “Instead of being a leader in human rights, I think we’re showing very, very different leadership. So other countries feel free rein and feel emboldened to do the same thing.”

Calen Razor is a NOTUS reporter and an Allbritton Journalism Institute fellow.