US officials said Thursday that the Biden administration’s special envoy to Haiti has resigned in protest of the massive “inhuman” expulsion of Haitian migrants as it has been devastated by civil strife and natural disaster.
Daniel Foote was appointed to this position only in July after the assassination of Haiti’s President Jovanel Mois. Even before the expatriate expulsion from the small Texas border town of Del Rio, the career diplomat was known to be deeply dismayed about a lack of urgency in Washington and a glacial pace on efforts to improve conditions in Haiti.
Foote wrote to Secretary of State Antony Blinken that he was leaving immediately “with deep disappointment and with apologies to those seeking significant change”.
“I will not make a reverse decision with the United States to deport inhumane, thousands of Haitian refugees and illegal immigrants to Haiti, a country where US officials are confined to safe compounds because of threats to daily life by armed gangs,” he said. said. wrote. “Our policy approach to Haiti is deeply flawed, and my policy recommendations have been ignored and dismissed, when not edited to present a narrative different from my own.”
The State Department criticized Foote for resigning at a critical juncture and pushed back against suggestions that his policy prescription had been overlooked.
“This is a challenging moment that requires leadership,” spokesman Ned Price said in a written statement. “It is unfortunate that, instead of participating in a solution-oriented policy process, Special Envoy Foote has resigned and misrepresented the circumstances of his resignation.”
He said the role of the President’s advisers is to provide him with the best possible advice. “No idea is overlooked, but not all ideas are good ideas,” Price said.
Foote’s sudden departure leaves a void in US policy toward Haiti – US Ambassador Michelle Sisson is expected to depart soon after being named to serve in another State Department post – and camping at the Texas border. Adds another important voice to the administration’s response to Haitians.
Criticism has been fueled by images that went viral this week of Border Patrol agents on horseback using aggressive tactics against migrants. Democrats and several pro-immigration groups say efforts to expel thousands of Haitians without giving them a chance to seek asylum violate US principles.
The migrant camp has shrunk significantly since passing more than 14,000 people on Saturday, many of whom have been expelled and many others released with notices to report to immigration officials in the US.
According to Haitian officials, evacuation flights to Haiti began on Sunday and there were 10 flights by the end of Tuesday. US officials say they are flying seven flights a day, which would make it one of the fastest, mass evacuations from the US in decades.
At least one top official in Haiti praised Foote’s resignation, accusing the Biden administration of violating the rights of Haitian immigrants.
“This is the first time we see an American diplomat who has decided to leave against the wishes of the US government,” Haiti’s election minister, Mathias Pierre, told the Associated Press. “We salute it.”
Pierre also criticized Haiti’s elite, saying they have turned a blind eye because migration fuels the economy. He said remittances account for 35% of Haiti’s GDP, with the diaspora, the majority of it in the US, remitting about $3.8 billion per year.
Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry has barely discussed the evictions publicly, saying only that his government is concerned with the conditions migrants face at the US border and that it will help those deported back to Haiti. Pierre was far more critical of America
“When they are getting (thousands) of Afghan people, they are rejecting Haitians, while Haiti is in the midst of a crisis: a crisis with earthquakes, a crisis with the assassination of the president and a poverty crisis that clearly One of the main issues is why people are leaving,” Pierre said.
Foote previously served as the Deputy Chief of Mission in Haiti and is a former ambassador to Zambia. In his new position, he worked with the US ambassador to support Haiti after the assassination of the president.
For weeks, he had been quietly pushing in Washington a plan to boost US security aid to Haiti to pave the way for new presidential elections. But Haiti watchers said they were becoming frustrated with the pace of decision-making in the administration.
“When someone who is tasked with Haiti policy at the highest level because the ‘recommendations are ignored and rejected’ it is not only upsetting, but it shows you that this administration does not tolerate anyone who will not go along with their distorted view of the facts,” said Damien Merlo, a Republican strategist who has worked for years on Haiti policy and is now a registered lobbyist for the country’s government. “Dan Foote is a world-class diplomat who refuses to be told what to do. I want more Foreign Service officers to have the courage to stand up and call their bosses.”
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