The White House is ramping up deportation flights to kick out Haitian migrants who have been gathering by the thousands at the southern border over the past week. Although the Department of Homeland Security won’t officially detail the number of flights planned, there’s word that it could be as many as eight flights per day although others say the number will likely be smaller. The increased flights will start sending some of the almost 15,000 people who have gathered in the South Texas border town of Del Rio. And they’re also meant to deter more Haitians from trying to migrate to the United States, a move that has led to complaints from human rights groups and even some Democratic lawmakers. The flights won’t just go to Haiti but also to other countries in South America where the migrants had been living.
The Biden administration had temporarily put deportation flights to Haiti on pause after the country suffered a devastating earthquake in August that was followed by a powerful tropical storm. All that took place amid a climate of political unrest and increased violence sparked by the assassination of the president in July. Considering the current conditions on the island, more than 50 Democratic lawmakers are urging the White House to stop deportations to Haiti. U.S. officials are insisting that this isn’t an effort targeted at Haitians but rather an enforcement of immigration laws in general. “This isn’t about any one country or country of origin,” a U.S. official tells the Washington Post. “This is about enforcing border restrictions on those who continue to enter the country illegally and put their lives and the lives of the federal workforce at risk.”
The Biden administration continues to rely on a pandemic-related order, known as Title 42, to rapidly kick out most migrants either to Mexico or their home countries. That has led to criticism from human rights organizations that say the White House is still using Trump-era policies at the border. “This administration has talked a big game about wanting a humane asylum system,” Lee Gelernt, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union, tells the New York Times. “It is horrific that the administration is sending a blanket message that the border is closed without acknowledging that asylum seekers have no choice but to flee and seek safety.”