ICE sends deportation flight to Haiti after warning US citizens to evacuate

The Biden administration is conducting a deportation flight to Haiti on Thursday, a day after the State Department called on all U.S. citizens to leave the country immediately due to security concerns.

The scheduled deportation flight, the second to Haiti this month, left Alexandria, La., shortly before 8 a.m. EDT and is scheduled to land in Port-au-Prince shortly after 11 a.m.

“Those two cannot happen at the same time. You cannot be evacuating people and deporting people at the same time. That is beyond inhumane. It is definitely a violation against human rights,” said Guerline Jozef, executive director of the Haitian Bridge Alliance.

According to unconfirmed reports on Wednesday, the flight was scheduled to depart with more than 60 Haitians on board.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) did not immediately return a request for comment.

Earlier in August, ICE commissioned about 850 flights to move immigration detainees within the United States, a 50 percent increase from the month before, as well as approximately 150 removal flights, up 51 percent from July.

ICE air operations are at a 44-month high, and the 150 removal flights this month are the most since September of 2021, when the Biden administration operated 193 such flights, including many to Haiti.

ICE has also increased the visibility of those flights, touting its efforts to repatriate foreign nationals: On Wednesday, it offered media footage of three separate deportation flights to Ecuador.

Though advocates have been sharply critical of the Biden administration’s policy of parading deportee “perp walks,” ICE has continued to distribute the footage.

And human rights advocates are baffled over many elements of the administration’s policies toward Haiti, from its support for the current regime to continued deportations to a country in chaos.

Jozef said the administration’s record on Haiti has some bright spots, with policy wins such as the expansion of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Haitians.

“We fought really hard to get TPS, we say thank you for that, really hard for the humanitarian parole, thank you for that. We worked really hard for them to push on family reunification. Not only do we support, we work with them and we say thank you for that and we continue to do so,” said Jozef.

“However, when what they are doing is wrong. We have to hold them accountable.”

On July 27, the State Department issued a “do not travel” notice for Haiti; ICE did not conduct removal flights to the country that month.

Over that month, conditions there continued to deteriorate with the kidnapping of a U.S. national and her daughter, and an announcement that a U.N.-brokered, Kenya-led peacekeeping force, supported by the United States, would be deployed to Haiti. 

On Aug. 2, ICE repatriated 55 people to Haiti.

On Wednesday, the State Department escalated its warning on conditions in Haiti, calling on all U.S. nationals to leave the country “as soon as possible via commercial or private transport,” just hours before Thursday’s removal flight.

“Our ask is for the United States to turn that plane around,” said Jozef.

“The United States must not deplane people, deported people, they need to turn that thing around.”

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