The U.S. special envoy for Haiti resigned Thursday, denouncing the Biden administration’s decision to deport thousands of Haitian refugees to their home country as “inhumane” and “counterproductive.”
Mr. Foote wrote that Haitians shouldn’t be sent back to a country where “American officials are confined to secure compounds because of the danger posed by armed gangs in control of daily life.”
The letter was first reported by PBS NewsHour and Le Novuelliste, a Haitian newspaper.
Mr. Foote’s letter comes after disturbing images from the Texas border with Mexico showing Haitian immigrants lining up by the thousands to escape into the U.S.
Conservatives and civil liberties groups have criticized the Biden administration for enforcing a Trump administration order deporting migrants without giving them an opportunity to seek asylum.
The Biden administration has invoked the Trump-era rule saying the Haitians pose a public health concern amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
But conservatives say the administration’s approach is hypocritical, given the number of illegals from other countries who flood into the U.S. unchallenged under President Biden.
Civil liberties groups, meanwhile, have slammed the U.S. response to the Haitians as cruel and uncaring. That criticism increased after Customs and Border Patrol agents were photographed on horseback chasing and grabbing Haitian migrants.
Rep. Henry Cuellar, Texas Democrat whose district includes a section of the border with Mexico, said there are another 30,000 Haitian refugees in Mexico, 30,000 in Colombia and 15,000 in Panama.
“This surge of Haitians is not going to stop anytime soon,” Mr. Cuellar said on CNN Thursday. “This is going to go on for a while.”
Asked whether Vice President Kamala Harris’ immigration mission to Mexico and Guatemala in June changed anything, Mr. Cuellar replied, “With all due respect, no.”
“I’ve been telling the administration, the transition team, since Dec. 11 of last year that [migrants] are getting the impression that the borders are going to be open, and they feel that they have an opportunity to come into the United States,” he said. “We’ve got to work with the private sector to create jobs down there in Central America.”
Mr. Foote’s abrupt departure creates a void in the U.S.-Haiti relations, with another top diplomat scheduled to leave soon.
Michele Sison, the U.S. ambassador to Haiti, is expected to leave soon as she’s been nominated to serve as the State Department’s assistant secretary of international organization affairs.
The number of Haitians camped at the U.S. border has dwindled slightly as the authorities started deportations. Flights to Haiti began Saturday, and there were 10 by the end of Tuesday, Haitian officials said.
U.S. officials say they are increasing flights, making it one of the largest explosions of illegal immigrants in decades.
Mr. Foote has deep experience dealing with Haiti. He previously served in Haiti as deputy chief of mission. Most recently, he was working with the Haitian government after the assassination of President Jovenel Moise.
The special envoy had been working with top officials of both countries to ensure Haiti held presidential elections after the Moise assassination.
• Dave Boyer contributed to this story, which was also based in part on wire services.