The Biden administration’s special envoy to Haiti has resigned, protesting about “inhumane” large-scale expulsions of Haitian migrants to their homeland wracked by civil strife and natural disaster, US officials have said.
Daniel Foote was appointed to the position only in July, following the assassination of Haiti’s president.
Even before the migrant expulsions from the small Texas border town of Del Rio, the career diplomat was known to be deeply frustrated with what he considered a lack of urgency in Washington and a glacial pace on efforts to improve conditions in Haiti.
Mr Foote wrote to Secretary of State Antony Blinken to say that he was stepping down immediately “with deep disappointment and apologies to those seeking crucial changes”.
“I will not be associated with the United States’ inhumane, counterproductive decision to deport thousands of Haitian refugees and illegal immigrants to Haiti, a country where American officials are confined to secure compounds because of the danger posed by armed gangs to daily life,” he wrote.
“Our policy approach to Haiti remains deeply flawed, and my policy recommendations have been ignored and dismissed, when not edited to project a narrative different from my own.”
Foote’s sudden departure leaves a void in US policy toward Haiti and adds another prominent, critical voice to the administration’s response to Haitians camped on the Texas border.
The camp has shrunk considerably since surpassing more than 14,000 people by last Saturday – many of them expelled and many released in the US with notices to report to immigration authorities.
For weeks, Mr Foote had been quietly pushing in Washington a plan to boost US security assistance to Haiti to pave the way for presidential elections. But Haiti watchers said he became increasingly disappointed with the pace of decision-making in the administration.
“When someone who is tasked with Haiti policy at the highest level resigns because ‘recommendations are ignored and dismissed’ it’s not only troubling, but shows you this administration does not tolerate anyone who won’t go along with their distorted view of the facts,” said Damian 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 do. I wish more foreign service officers had his courage to stand up and call out their bosses.”
At least one top official in Haiti cheered Foote’s resignation while accusing the Biden administration of violating rights of Haitian migrants.
“This is the first time we see a US diplomat who has decided to go against the will of the US government,” Mathias Pierre, Haiti’s election minister, told The Associated Press. “We salute that.”
Pierre also criticised Haiti’s elite, saying they have turned a blind eye because migration fuels the economy. He noted that 35% of Haiti’s gross domestic product is remittances, with the diaspora sending roughly 3.8 billion dollars a year.
Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry has barely discussed the expulsions in public, saying only that his government is worried about conditions that migrants face on the US border and that it will help those sent back to Haiti.