As Haitians cope with the devastating aftermath of a 7.2 magnitude earthquake, Tropical Storm Grace and the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in July, a coalition of over 300 rights groups is denouncing the Biden administration’s ongoing deportations to Haiti and urging it to expand temporary protected status. “How do you tell somebody not to come when they are dealing not only with man-made crisis, political crisis and violence, and on top of it dealing with natural disasters?” asks Guerline Jozef, co-founder and executive director of Haitian Bridge Alliance.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González.
Two weeks after a massive earthquake hit southern Haiti, thousands of survivors are growing desperate as they continue to face shortages of food, shelter and medicine. This is a resident of Les Cayes.
MICHEL PIERRE: [translated] My house was destroyed by the earthquake. Several of my family members died. I had 13 goats: 11 died; I have two left. I came to the market to see if I can sell the two that remain. We have nothing. We need help.
AMY GOODMAN: As Haitians cope with the earthquake’s aftermath and the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in July, a coalition of over 300 rights groups here in the U.S. sent a letter Monday to the Biden administration urging it to halt all deportations to Haiti and expand TPS — that’s temporary protected status. They say more Haitians have been deported since Biden took office than during all of fiscal year 2020.
We go right now to Guerline Jozef, co-founder and executive director of Haitian Bridge Alliance.
Welcome back to Democracy Now!, Guerline. These are very, very dire times in Haiti. Can you explain what’s happening? Are people actually being deported to Haiti right now?
GUERLINE JOZEF: Good morning, Amy. And thank you so much for having us back.
We are getting a lot of calls from our clients who are in immigration detention stating that they are being told to pack their things because they are getting ready to deport them. It is extremely alarming, given the fact that, as you mentioned earlier, we are barely starting to recover from the earthquake, and the hurricane that literally ravaged the country two weeks ago, followed by the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse back in July, on July 7th. So, we are alarmed.
We are extremely concerned, as the Biden administration did promise that they were not going to be having any deportations to Haiti. But what we are hearing from our clients is very alarming, because they are being told that they will be deported soon. And we have to be alarmed, because literally a month after the assassination and two days prior to the earthquake, they did send two planes to Haiti full of asylum seekers, including children and babies. Over 135 people were deported back to Haiti literally a few weeks after the assassination.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And can you talk about the issue that asylum seekers are having in terms of if they attempt to come in through Mexico? That’s more recent route that Haitian asylum seekers have been taking?
GUERLINE JOZEF: Yes. So, since 2015, we started seeing Haitian migrants arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border. And that was under President Obama. And the majority of them were put in detention and eventually pulled in. But on August 28th, 2016, we saw a turn of events, where they were no longer given a humanitarian pull, but they being put in immigration detention and then deported. Things got really, really hard under President Trump, where, you know, the border got closed indefinitely, and the use of Title 42 starting last year, MPP literally closing the entire border.
And what we started seeing is, because of policies enacted in the United States, the wall kept moving further, further down, all the way to Panama, all the way to Guatemala, all the way to Nicaragua, where people were blocked from continuing their journey, very deadly journey. They were blocked from continuing the journey to make it to the U.S.-Mexico border to ask for asylum. And what we continue to advocate on behalf of the people, who have found themselves at the U.S.-Mexico border since 2015, 2016, who have been waiting for over five years, is to get access to be able to come and ask for asylum. And we also see, you know, a new arrival of people coming by boat.
And we understand how Secretary Mayorkas, Vice President Harris and President Biden keep telling on people, “Do not come. If they come, they will be intercepted and turned back.” But how do you tell somebody not to come when they are dealing not only with man-made crisis, political crisis and violence, and on top of it dealing with natural disasters like the earthquake and the storm that just devastated the country two weeks ago?
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And speaking of the earthquake, what are you hearing is the assistance that the international community is providing, especially considering the terrible scandal over the last major earthquake in Haiti of all the stolen aid and the corruption that ensued in supposed international assistance?
GUERLINE JOZEF: We are really strongly advocating against — so that we don’t see a repeat of what happened in 2010. For example, how do we work directly with impacted community members on the ground to provide direct assistance for them? What the Haitian Bridge Alliance and many other communities within the diaspora are doing is working hand in hand with organizations, Haitian organizations on the ground, local community members to provide humanitarian assistance and see how we can help rebuild structural, sound structures, so that we can make sure that when — not “if” — now that we know how prone that Haiti is to earthquake and other natural disasters, how do we support structure that will withstand earthquakes, so that we can save lives?
So, we are looking at now the aftermath relief, where we provide direct assistance, for the Haitian Bridge Alliance is giving direct cash assistance in the hands of the most vulnerable so that they can rebuild, so that they can be able to bury their loved ones, like the gentleman you heard earlier today speaking about him losing everything, including his goats. That is their livelihood. That’s what they use to be able to send their children to school. So, what we are doing is providing direct assistance to those people so that they can at least be able to survive the next few months. But at the same time, how do we make sure we provide assistance that will be long-lasting, make sure that we have the proper road? When something like that happens again, we are able to quickly reach the people in the remote locations. How do we make sure that we have schools, and hospital, to treat those who are unfortunately victim of both natural disasters and man-made disasters?
AMY GOODMAN: So —
GUERLINE JOZEF: But what we are [inaudible] right now is dire.
AMY GOODMAN: So, Guerline, you have a country that is facing perhaps massive hunger from climate change, from the hurricane, from the disruption of people’s lives. And is there a functioning government? Because we are also coming out of the assassination of the president of Haiti, assassinated by, among them, Colombian mercenaries, some of them trained by the United States. Has that also been put on hold, that investigation, as this latest crisis has developed and, amazingly, people are being sent back into this catastrophe?
GUERLINE JOZEF: Amy, thank you so much for bringing that up. As we’ve been pushing through recovery, rescue, search and rescue, from what we are seeing, the Haitian government is almost nonexistent. We are not getting daily briefings of what’s happening on the ground from the government. Again, once again, the country, the people on the ground are the one trying to push through and making sure that people are OK. I am not an expert on that matter. However, based on what we are seeing, we do not have a functioning government, which we all knew, after the assassination of the president. Even before that, we were —
AMY GOODMAN: We have 15 seconds, Guerline. Sorry.
GUERLINE JOZEF: Yes. We were struggling to recover from all the political turmoil. But right now we are asking for support on the ground to be able to move forward from those disasters, both man-made and natural disasters. But, as you mentioned, Amy, we still are not seeing the help that we need from the Haitian government right now.
AMY GOODMAN: Guerline Jozef, we want to thank you for being with us, co-founder and executive director of Haitian Bridge Alliance.
Democracy Now! is produced with Renée Feltz, Mike Burke, Deena Guzder, Messiah Rhodes, Nermeen Shaikh. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González. Stay safe. Wear a mask.