Democrats call on Biden to pause Haitian deportations after Moïse assassination

Alex Daugherty
5-6 minutes
Crowd sets fire to cars presumably used by assailants who assassinated Moïse

An angry crowd gathered near a police station on Thursday in Petion-Ville and set fire to several cars they presumed were used by assailants who assassinated Haitian President Jovenel Moïse.

An angry crowd gathered near a police station on Thursday in Petion-Ville and set fire to several cars they presumed were used by assailants who assassinated Haitian President Jovenel Moïse. By Johnny Fils-Aimé

A group of House Democrats are calling on the Biden administration to halt deportations and make changes to Haitian immigration policy a week after the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse.

The co-chairs of the House Haiti Caucus, including Florida Democratic Rep. Val Demings, wrote a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on Wednesday, arguing that Moïse’s assassination “further destabilizes the country” and justifies immediate action.

Their demands include having the Department of Homeland Security publish a notice in the Federal Register officially enforcing the Biden administration’s decision to extend Temporary Protected Status, a designation that allows Haitians in the U.S. since 2011 to live and work without the fear of deportation. Mayorkas announced the TPS designation in May and visited with Haitian activists in Miami after the announcement.

“In response to the dire situation in Haiti, we welcomed the Biden administration’s decision to redesignate Haiti for Temporary Protected Status in late May, which provided nearly 100,000 Haitians with access to protection from deportation,” wrote Demings, Massachusetts Rep. Ayanna Pressley, Michigan Rep. Andy Levin and New York Rep. Yvette Clarke. “However, much more needs to be done. The delay in publishing the renewed designation in the Federal Register has inhibited eligible Haitians from applying for TPS.”

The four lawmakers also called for the Biden administration to restart the Haitian Family Reunification Program, which allowed Haitians with family members in the United States to enter and work while waiting for their green card. The Trump administration ended the program in 2019.

Demings, an Orlando Democrat who has announced a run against Republican Sen. Marco Rubio in 2022, released the letter after meeting with Haitian community leaders in Florida on Monday. She said the meeting dealt with immigration concerns and vaccine distribution following Moïse’s assassination.

“As we work to keep the Haitian people safe in the chaos and uncertainty currently gripping the nation, it is critical that we lift and listen to the Haitian voices that must shape a democratic future that will serve all people, not the elite few,” Demings said in a statement.

And the Haiti Caucus also called for a pause of deportations to Haiti, which continue under the Biden administration. South Florida activists made a similar pitch to Mayorkas during his May visit.

“In the midst of this turmoil, DHS must finally halt all deportations of Haitian migrants amid this political crisis and the continued spread of COVID-19,” the lawmakers wrote. “Since the start of the Biden administration, more than 2,000 Haitian migrants have been deported. Specifically, the Biden administration’s continued use of the Trump era ‘Title 42’ policy has resulted in unjust removals and expulsions of Haitian asylum seekers. This is both unconscionable, inhumane and unjust.”

DHS did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the letter.

On Tuesday, Mayorkas warned that Haitians who try to enter the United States by sea illegally will not be allowed in. His statements were related to Haiti’s political crisis where three people have claimed the presidency in the last week and widespread pro-democracy protests in Cuba.

“Any migrant intercepted at sea, regardless of their nationality, will not be permitted to enter the United States,” Mayorkas said.


People waiting for days to apply for visas wait outside the U.S. embassy where they were told the embassy continues to be closed in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Monday, July 12, 2021. President Jovenel Moise was assassinated in his home on July 7. Fernando Llano AP

Alex Daugherty is the Washington correspondent for the Miami Herald, covering South Florida from the nation’s capital. Previously, he worked as the Washington correspondent for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and for the Herald covering politics in Miami.

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