Opinion | Haitian deportations are immoral and Biden must do better

Haiti urgently needs our help. The U.S. needs to support Haitians at the border, not deport them.


Omar Ornelas/ USA Today Network

Haitian migrants walk towards the Rio Grande after Mexican police and immigration officers enter the Braulio Fernandez Park where the migrant had taken refuge on Thursday Sept. 23, 2021 Aq2z9120

Sophia Meador, Opinions Columnist

The Biden administration is under scrutiny for its response to the rising number of Haitian migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border, and rightfully so.

While the Biden Administration defends deportations of Haitians, claiming the administration is acting in accordance with public health guidelines, the administration’s deportations and treatment toward Haitian migrants is inexcusable; we need to hold Biden administration accountable to its campaign promises. Biden needs to stop deporting Haitians and help them instead.

Haiti is unraveling under the stress of multiple catastrophes that have rocked the island in recent months.

In late May, the Haitian government declared a health emergency following a spike in COVID-19 infections and casualties.

On July 7, Haiti’s former President, Jovenel Moïse, was assassinated in his home by armed mercenaries, leaving the country with not a vacuum of leadership.

Finally, on Aug. 14, a magnitude 7.2 earthquake shattered the island, resulting in a death toll of over 2,200.

With the country in disarray, gang violence has spread unchecked. According to business leaders, gangs control access to and from the port, which brings in roughly 80 percent of everything consumed in the island — leaving the majority of Haitians with no access to food and basic needs.

With the dire situation at home, many Haitians fled the country, seeing the dangerous passage to the U.S. as their greatest hope. According to Alejandro Mayorkas, U.S. secretary of homeland security, an estimated 30,000 migrants crossed into Border Patrol’s Del Rio Sector between Sept. 9 and Sept. 24, the majority of them from Haiti.

Rather than embrace Haitians who fled for their lives, the U.S. has turned its back and pointed them home. The Biden administration has already deported more than 5,500 migrants back to Haiti.

Under U.S. law, any person at the U.S. border has the right to seek asylum. However, Title 42 — a provision in place amid public health emergencies — allows the U.S. to expel migrants without due process.

Title 42 was reenacted by the Trump administration in March 2020 to justify restrictive immigration policy. The Biden administration has used Title 42 to justify the deportation of Haitian migrants.

While COVID-19 is obviously still a looming threat, the Biden administration is wrong to use Title 42 to expel migrants. The U.S. has more than enough resources to support Haiti and screen migrants for COVID-19 at the border.

Biden capitalized on more humane immigration politics during his election campaign. “Trump has waged an unrelenting assault on our values and our history as a nation of immigrants. It’s wrong, and it stops when Joe Biden is elected president,” the Biden campaign wrote in its immigration plan.

Biden has failed to keep this promise. Title 42 is being used as an excuse to dispose of migrants. If the Biden administration believed in its promise, it would exempt Title 42 from migrants.

The U.S. was built on the promise of a land free for all — “all” includes Haitians, especially those who need our help. As Iowans, we should have compassion and empathy for Haiti.

The infamous 2008 flood drowned eastern Iowa in wreckage and debris, costing the state more than $10 billion in repairs. Just over a year ago, a derecho hit Cedar Rapids, causing many to lose their homes, businesses, and crops.

Iowa is “one big backyard.” When we need help, we always have neighbors to turn to. This neighborly mentality got us through events like the 2008 flood and the derecho, but this mentality needs to extend across state and country lines.

We need to put pressure on the Biden administration to help Haitians. This dire situation is not something anyone gets to turn their back on.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.


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