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Shame on us for ignoring the suffering of Haitians | READER COMMENTARY

U.S. Customs and Border Protection mounted officers attempt to contain migrants as they cross the Rio Grande from Ciudad Acuna, Mexico, into Del Rio, Texas, Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021. (AP Photo/Felix Marquez)
U.S. Customs and Border Protection mounted officers attempt to contain migrants as they cross the Rio Grande from Ciudad Acuna, Mexico, into Del Rio, Texas, Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021. (AP Photo/Felix Marquez) (Felix Marquez/AP)

I am writing in response to the recent resignation of Biden administration’s special envoy to Haiti, Daniel Foote, in protest of “inhumane” treatment of Haitian migrants (”Leaders at UN face global concern over regional conflicts across the world,” Sept. 25). Having worked intermittently in Haiti from 2011 to 2013, I have witnessed first-hand the unfortunate political and humanitarian concerns in Haiti. I applaud Mr. Foote’s decision to take a prophetic stand regarding the lack of support and failure to address the rights of asylum-seekers from Haiti at our border who are in fear of returning to Haiti and are seeking refuge in the United States.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees defines an asylum-seeker as someone whose request for sanctuary has yet to be processed. In addition, the agency’s definition goes on to state that “during mass movements of refugees, usually as a result of conflict or violence, it is not always possible or necessary to conduct individual interviews with every asylum-seeker who crosses a border. These groups are often called ‘prima facie’ refugees.”

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I feel that President Joe Biden, who just spoke before the UN General Assembly, and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security have not considered the rights of Haitians who have crossed the border in a mass movement to seek refuge. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services defines “Asylum status as a form of protection available to people who: meet the definition of refugee, are already in the United States, or are seeking admission at a port of entry.” One may apply for asylum in the United States regardless of your country of origin or your current immigration status.

Using these definitions, it is clear that the Haitian migrants at the border meet the UN and USCIS definitions of asylum-seekers, and I have been horrified at the antebellum tactics of border patrol agents on horseback using aggressive tactics to manage and capture Haitians. Where is our humanity? I am embarrassed and ashamed of these tactics. Why have their pleas for asylum been ignored, and why have these people been deported without an interview or recognition that they qualify for refugee status?

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I applaud Mr. Foote’s response to this humanitarian crisis and I am saddened to have to quote Matthias Pierre, the Haitian election minister, regarding the U.S. response: “While they’re receiving (thousands) of Afghan people, they’re rejecting Haitians, while Haiti is in the middle of a crisis: a crisis with the earthquake, a crisis with the assassination of the president and a poverty crisis that is clearly one of the major issues why people are leaving.”

This is truly a sad moment in our history when we ignore this mass movement of refugees seeking asylum, treat them abhorrently and deport them to dangerous and frightening situations. Shame on us!

Pat Shannon Jones, Baltimore

The writer is director of the Immigration Outreach Service Center.

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