Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Watch Live

Border & Immigration

Humanitarians urge President Biden to stop Haitian deportations

Humanitarian organizations are urging the Biden administration to halt deportations to Haiti, which is in a state of emergency after armed groups took over large parts of the country.

Deporting migrants to Haiti is immoral because of the country’s civil unrest, said Guerline Josef, executive director of the San Diego-based Haitian Bridge Alliance.

“There’s a level of insecurity that we have never seen in Haiti right now,” she said. “It’s unconscionable for deportations to be happening.”


More than 400 immigrant advocacy organizations signed a letter asking for a memorandum on deportations and Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, for Haitian nationals.

The federal government can designate a country for TPS when conditions there deteriorate to the point where its government cannot handle the return of deported nationals. Granting TPS to Haiti would give Haitian nationals already in the United States protection from deportation and access to work permits.

The U.S. Department of State issued a “Do Not Travel” advisory for Haiti. Officials cited widespread kidnapping and violent crime.

There is also a cholera outbreak in the country, according to the travel advisory.

U.S. government personnel in Haiti have been told to avoid using any kind of public transportation, stay away from banks and ATMs, and avoid traveling at night.


Immigration lawyers in the U.S. are concerned for their Haitian clients.

“I’m receiving calls every single day from people in panic, not able to get food, water, electricity, not able to even move without risking their lives,” said Blaine Bookey, legal director of the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies.

Tracking deportations

More than 27,000 Haitians have been deported since President Joe Biden’s inauguration in 2020, according to Witness at the Border, an organization that tracks deportation flights.

While Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, publishes annual deportation statistics, Witness at the Border publishes monthly reports that advocates like Josef and Bookey use to track deportations.

Tom Cartwright began tracking deportation flights in 2019.

ICE has multiple contracts with private charter companies that conduct deportation flights. To track them, Cartwright has to find out which charter companies have ICE contracts and then track their entire fleet. Cartwright monitors more than 100 airplanes each day.

“It’s triangulation of a lot of data and tracking each individual flight,” he said.

The most recent deportation flight to Haiti was scheduled for Feb. 29. However, that flight was unable to take off because armed groups took over the Port-au-Prince airport. That airport remains closed.

“Nobody is flying into Port-au-Prince, I mean there are no planes going in,” Cartwright said.

Despite the closed airport, deportations continue by sea.

The U.S. Coast Guard repatriated 65 Haitians in March and 33 in February.

Josef, who is Haitian-American, criticized the decision to schedule a deportation flight on the last day of Black History Month.

“We wanted to deport Black folks to the first Black independent country in the Americas,” she said. “That’s how we chose to close Black History Month.”

Some of Josef’s friends and relatives have died during Haiti’s civil unrest. She said the support from more than 400 other organizations was “really amazing.”

“We are hopeful,” she said. “Haiti is a fighter, she is hopeful and she is brave.”