Healthcare workers watch as Haitians who were deported from the United States deplane at the Toussaint Louverture International Airport in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Tuesday, May 26, 2020.
( AP Photo/Dieu Nalio Chery
Host: We've been just talking about deportations under the Biden administration, and one country that's been particularly affected by this is Haiti. More than 900 Haitians were deported in the first part of February alone and at least 72 have been deported already this week, but the deportees, many of them children, are being sent back to a country in turmoil. Massive protests against President Jovenel Moïse have been met with police violence that have left dozens dead.
What could this mean politically for the Biden administration and Haitian people living in the US, and for Biden supporters who expected an end to such widespread deportations? Here, with us to answer these questions and more is Jacqueline Charles, Caribbean correspondent for the Miami Herald. Hi, Jacqueline. Thank you for joining us.
Jacqueline Charles: Thanks for having me.
Host: We've been talking about deportations. How does Haiti fit into this bigger picture? Is there a sense that people coming from Haiti are being targeted for deportation more than other migrants?
Jacqueline: Well, we really have been trying to understand this, because during the campaign, President Biden, then vice-president Biden and democratic nominee visited South Florida, specifically Little Haiti. I was at the event, and this was one of the promises that he made, that there was going to be this moratorium on deportations. The community was very happy about this, because this has been a huge issue for them, whether they have families in this situation or not. But given the reality of Haiti currently, people felt that this was a humane thing to do.
What we saw was that after he was inaugurated, he issued his moratorium, then you had the ruling by the Texas court. But what advocates are telling me is that even with that moratorium and without the ruling of the Texas court, we would have still seen these deportations that we're seeing as it relates to Haitians because of this Title 42 rule. Now, what has been unclear to me is that whether or not everyone on those flights, whether or not they meet the standard-- because I wrote a story just a few weeks ago about Paul Pierrilus, who was a stateless man, born of Haitian parents, but not born in Haiti, has no documentation, is not even recognized by the Haitian government.
President Trump tried to send him on his last deportation flight to Haiti. That was halted, and then we see under Biden administration, this gentleman is sent back to Haiti along with others. He was not at the border, he doesn't qualify as Title 42, but he was returned back. How many Paul Pierrilus have been sent to Haiti since President Biden has come into office?
Host: Was he somebody who had been in the country for a little bit of time, he was not a recent arrival?
Jacqueline: 40 years old, he moved to the United States when he was five, lived in New York.
Host: Wow. You were referring earlier to a court order, and that was one that had temporarily rejected Biden's effort to stop deportations for a period of time, so deportations are allowed to continue, but they don't have to continue. The Biden administration controls the agencies that run the border, and the administration can make final determinations about whether migrants should be detained, allowed into the country or kicked out. That's, I guess, what's particularly confusing about this case and others, right?
Jacqueline: Well, yes and no, because one of the questions that have come up among some of the advocates and, of course, some of the people who support President Biden is whether or not-- this has been the question, lingering question out there, whether or not DHS is going rogue. If you recall, it took a while for us to get ahead of secretary for the Department of Homeland Security. Just in my interviews with lawyers and immigration advocates, a lot of this was brought up, where they said, “Look, the prior administration left a lot of landlines that have tied the hands of the Biden administration.”
DHS has always had discretionary in terms of who they deport, when they deport, and just because this Texas order went into effect, it did not say you should start deporting everybody. Their real sense felt like there was this sense to just rush, to just get as many people as you can out. What we saw in that is a lot of Haitian migrants-- advocates are telling me this week that, in fact, it's over 1000 that have been deported and at least 16 flights.
Again, I'm back to-- you had that little asterisk, Title 42, and what they are characterizing it as these are Haitians, who are at the us southern border, who had been waiting to get into United States, came in and, in some instances, they were sent back to Mexico-- which was not supposed to happen-- and, in other instances, that they were put on flights. There's been a real lack of transparency, frankly, about these deportations, who are they, how did they get into DHS’ grasp? We are hearing that, yes, there are a number have been children, two months old.
You have families, so, there's a lot of questions that we don't have answers to, and even members of Congress, who are really concerned about these deportations, really, an uptake in deportations of Haitians that we have been seeing in the last several months since this new administration came in.
Host: From your reporting, it's Haitians who both are alleged to fall under this Title 42, which you referenced, which is a section of the public health code and is intended to protect the country from the spread of the pandemic. This was something that was implemented by Trump and has been continued to be enforced by Biden. There's both recent arrivals, who are coming from the land border from Mexico, who originally come from Haiti, who are coming in and being deported under Title 42. But your reporting also indicates that there are other Haitians that are also getting mixed up in this, people, who have lived in the country for many years, who are also being deported on these same flights.
Jacqueline: Exactly. We showed this with Paul Pierrilus, whose deportation had been halted because the Haitian government, according to them, did not give permission, did not give travel documents. He had a previous case involving a brother and something similar, where he was deported back to Haiti, and they had to bring him back to the United States. The question that we have today is how many Paul Pierrilus are also on these flights, how many people have been living in the United States for a number of years, who should have been protected under some a moratorium or at least have the possibility to exhaust all of their immigration opportunities before they were returned to Haiti.
Paul Pierrilus clearly showed that not everybody on these flights fall under this Title 42, “We're going to protect ourselves from the spread of the pandemic.”
Host: Jacqueline Charles is Caribbean correspondent for the Miami Herald. Jacqueline, thanks so much for putting all this into context for us, appreciate it.
New York Public Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline, often by contractors. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of New York Public Radio’s programming is the audio record.