Bipartisan Outrage Over Biden Administration Rapid Deportation of Haitian Refugees

Immigration Policy Brief #130 | By: Kathryn Baron | October 6, 2021

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Policy Summary

After the July 2021 assassination of the Haitian president that plunged the nation into political turmoil and exacerbated existing violence, a 7.2 earthquake and major tropical storm hit the following month, displacing and killing thousands. The Biden Administration extended an existing Temporary Protected Status for Haitians already living in the US from deportation as a result.

Additionally, more than 14,000 Haitian asylum seekers and refugees have since camped out under a bridge near the US Southern border before crossing the Rio Grande into the US. The Department of Homeland Security closed the Del Rio, Texas entry after being quickly overwhelmed by border crossings and sent an additional 400 agents to help with processing operations. Some migrants have also been transferred to other parts of the border that are less crowded. Over 3,300 of the 14,000 have already been sent to detention centers and/or removed via deportation flights. To circumvent the asylum process, Department of Homeland Security has invoked the long-existed, newly invoked under Trump Title 42 policy (public health law to effectively close the borders due to COVID-19).

Haitians represent only about 4% of migrants encountered by border agents in August (especially compared to Central Americans and Mexicans) but have steadily increased their presence since the mass exodus from Haiti to the US via Mexico in recent months.  Many Haitians at the border came from Chile where they had originally gone to seek asylum during an exodus from Haiti over a decade ago. Some possibly were the victims of the Trump administration’s expulsion of Haitians who were living in the US under temporary protection status.

The Biden Administration has quickly begun deporting Haitians; there are three (3) deportation flights booked for this upcoming Sunday and beginning Monday, there will be four (4) deportation flights per day. Images of immigration personnel rounding up Haitian refugees on horseback with whips have gone viral and outraged Democrats and Republicans, for different reasons.

Policy Analysis

Democrats have expressed discontent after seeing images of border patrol agents using aggressive tactics on horseback, and Republicans state that Biden’s policies and campaign promises falsely led Haitians to believe they would get asylum (even en masse).

In 2010, after another catastrophic earthquake hit Haiti, the US granted Temporary Protected Status to Haitians living in the US, thus shielding them from deportation. This was terminated by the Trump Administration in 2017, leaving Haitians until mid-2019 to either leave or face deportation. Under international law, the US is obliged to allow asylum seekers to apply for refuge and may not send them back should there be credible fear of persecution and/or to infrastructurally devastated countries of origin.

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The US has signed and ratified two (2) major treaties that apply here: the 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees (which also secures the notion of non-return, “non-refoulement”) and the 1984 Convention Against Torture. The US codified the provisions of the aforementioned treaties primarily in the 1980 US Refugee Act and it became universally acknowledged, and domestically by the Supreme Court. The 1980 Refugee Act was primarily created to codify and formally outline procedural guidelines for admission and resettlement of refugees and individuals of humanitarian concern to the US.

Engagement Resources​

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  • The National Immigration Law Center: an organization that exclusively dedicates itself to defending and furthering the rights of low-income immigrants and strives to educate decision makers on the impacts and effects of their policies on this overlooked part of the population.

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  • The ACLU: a non-profit with a longstanding commitment to preserving and protecting the individual rights and liberties of the Constitution and US laws guaranteed to all its citizens.


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