The resignation of US special envoy to Haiti, Ambassador Daniel Foote, is “damning” and “more evidence” that Biden administration officials must change course in their treatment of the neighboring country and its people, according to Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley.
The Boston Democrat, who co-chairs the House Haiti Caucus, also pressed Vice President Kamala Harris on the issue of Haitian refugees earlier this week. She said she is also pressing for investigations into clashes between migrants and US border protection agents, who whipped the migrants in images that spread across the Internet.
Pressley, who has repeatedly called for the US to halt deportations of Haitian refugees fleeing the unrest in their country, said they should be able to claim asylum. Boston is home to 25,000 Haitians, who make up 3.7% of the city’s population, according to Census figures.
“We have the capacity. We don’t have to choose between Afghans and Haitians,” she told the Reporter in a phone interview Thursday, referring to Afghan refugees who helped the US in Afghanistan. “It’s not ‘or.’ It’s ‘and.’ This is a humanitarian crisis.”
Haitian government officials have said they don’t have the capacity to receive the deportation flights that are underway, according to Pressley.
“We are deporting Haitians to a region ravaged by a pandemic, recovering from the assassination of its president, a dismantled government, a completely destabilized region, and swathes of it, as they cover from the earthquake, are without power and clean water,” Pressley said. “And we are deporting children as young as three years old. It’s not only cruel and inhumane but also potentially a death sentence.”
Foote, the special envoy, wrote in a Sept. 22 letter to President Biden’s secretary of state, Antony Blinken, that the administration’s approach to Haiti “deeply flawed,” His recommendations have been “ignored and dismissed,” Foote added.
Pressley, who also a member of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, has demanded a briefing on the “vile actions” at the Texas border. Border Patrol agents were photographed and recorded on horseback whipping Haitian migrants. “These abusers must be held accountable,” she said, calling US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) a “rogue and racist agency.”
“If we are going to say Black lives matter, that has to be more than a hashtag or a statement,” Pressley said Thursday. “It has to be a practice. Haitian lives are Black lives and Black lives matter. And the treatment is inhumane, callous.”
Pressley spoke to Vice President Harris on Monday about the mounting issues over the US response to Haitian refugees and the turmoil within the country. They spoke at a celebration at the vice president’s residence, focused on the fiftieth anniversary of the Congressional Black Caucus. Harris appeared sympathetic to her concerns, and shared her characterization of the treatment of Haitians, according to Pressley.
Haitian-Americans and other critics of US policies toward the country are holding a protest outside the John F. Kennedy federal building next to Boston City Hall on Friday at 11 a.m.
Pressley said she remains in Washington, D.C. for votes and plans to send a representative.
“These rallies, the mobilization of efforts online, people reaching out to their members of Congress, calling the White House, all of it matters,” she said. “Please do keep it up. The administration has an obligation and opportunity to change course.”