‘A Humanitarian Crisis Merits a Humanitarian Response’: AI Justice Calls on Biden Administration to Protect Haitian Refugees

For Immediate Release
March 27, 2024
Contact: [email protected]

Miami, FL—In recent weeks, the political and humanitarian crisis in Haiti has worsened, leaving more than 160,000 people displaced in the capital of Port-au-Prince and around 1.4 million Haitians on the verge of famine. During this difficult time for the people of Haiti, it is critical that the U.S. government ensure that people fleeing persecution have access to full and fair pathways to seek protection and are not returned to certain danger in Haiti.

However, the U.S. Coast Guard has continued to return those fleeing the country by sea back to Haiti and the Biden Administration is considering using and expanding the Migrant Operations Center (MOC) on Guantanamo Bay as a holding and processing center should mass maritime migration occur. In Florida, Governor DeSantis has deployed over one hundred law enforcement and Florida National Guard officers along with aircraft, seacraft, and drones to the Keys and has vowed to send Haitian refugees to Martha’s Vineyard—a political stunt which would only harm vulnerable populations.

“A humanitarian crisis merits a humanitarian response. Haitians fleeing the extreme violence and instability in their country must be given an opportunity to seek international protections, not forcibly returned to near certain harm,” said Cindy Woods, National Policy Counsel with Americans for Immigrant Justice. “For too long, Haitians seeking protection have suffered discrimination and mistreatment at the hands of the U.S. government. The U.S. government should reverse course and ensure Haitians have access to safety and U.S. asylum and other protections.”

“Despite the perilous political situation in their homeland, Haitians are often wrongly viewed as migrants fleeing insecurity or economic migrants. As such, they are not afforded their legal right to present their asylum claims to U.S. immigration officials. This is particularly alarming with the assassination of president Jovenel Moise and the exacerbated political unrest which ensued with constant debate about who is the legitimate interim president of Haiti,” said Cassandra Suprin, Director of the Family Defense Program at Americans for Immigrant Justice. “Furthermore, history has shown that Haitians detained at Guantanamo Bay lacked substantive rights and are subject to deplorable conditions.”

Americans for Immigrant Justice calls on the Biden Administration to take the following actions:

  • Cease all removal flights and returns of interdicted Haitians at sea to Haiti, in line with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees November 2022 non-return position.
  • Stop all plans to detain Haitians interdicted at sea at Guantanamo Bay, a historically fraught location which would largely foreclose transparency and access to counsel.
  • Extend and Redesignate Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Haiti to keep families together and safe and ensure Haitians currently integrated into the United States are not returned to a country that cannot safely receive them.
  • Expand the Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua and Venezuela (CHNV) parole program for Haitians, expedite applications, and remove barriers to eligibility for parole for Haitians previously interdicted at sea.
  • Expand the Haitian Family Reunification Program to include immediate relatives and asylees, and remove barriers to eligibility for Haitians who are present in the US through the CHNV parole program.
  • Denounce Governor DeSantis’ deployment of law enforcement officers, Florida State Guard, and air and sea craft to the southern coast of Florida to “defend against” Haitian asylum seekers and his plans to send vulnerable migrants to Martha’s Vineyard as part of ongoing political stunts.

Last September, AI Justice—along with 73 other immigrants’ and human rights organizations across the country—demanded that the Biden Administration suspend removal flights to Haiti. However, removal flights have continued at the pace of approximately one flight per month. Today, AI Justice joined with over 480 immigration, human rights, and civil rights organizations to again request a moratorium on deportations and returns to Haiti and an extension of TPS for Haitians. The current security and humanitarian crisis in Haiti can no longer be ignored.