ICE defies Biden and deports child asylum seekers to Haiti as it faces political chaos

New administration clashes with ICE as it faces 'rogue agency' criticism for ignoring orders

Chris Riotta
New York
Tuesday 09 February 2021 15:47 GMT
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The Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency has defied President Joe Biden’s deportation guidelines and sent at least 72 people to Haiti from the United States on Monday, according to a new report, amid an apparent clash between ICE and the new administration. 

Those removed from the US on Monday included 21 children and a two-month-old baby, the Guardian reported, despite the White House ordering immigration officials to focus deportation efforts on convicted felons and suspected terrorists. 

Many Haitians arriving at the US-Mexico border have said they were seeking asylum as a political crisis and reported coup attempt engulfed the poorest country in the region, including Johan Decopin, who told Reuters she was returned to Ciudad Juarez in Mexico last week “with nothing.” 

“They threw away our clothes and my children’s shoes,” she said. “We asked for asylum but they told us no.”

Under the previous administration, ICE used an obscure, rarely-used public health law known as Title 42 to restrict asylum seekers amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

When a judge appointed by former President Donald Trump ordered a stay on Mr Biden’s 100-day deportation moratorium,  which he signed upon taking office last month, ICE immediately resumed its removal operations. 

On Friday, the administration had ordered a halt to all deportation flights headed to Haiti after hours of reported talks with community activists and congressional staffers. The talks came as ICE began increasing its deportations to Haiti, Central America and Africa, the Guardian reported. 

But by Monday, that suspension appeared to had been lifted as ICE continued sending flights to the Haitian capital. 

A request for comment has been sent to ICE. The agency’s offices in Laredo, Texas did not respond to requests for comments. 

ICE, along with other immigration enforcement arms of the federal government, has faced criticism as a “rogue agency” under Mr Biden for ignoring guidelines and potentially violating international agreements, including returning dozens of Haitians to Mexico. Under current policy, the US can only return Guatemalans, Hondurans and Salvadorans to Mexico who passed through the country on their way to the southern border. 

Officials say Haitians returned to Mexico face language barriers and other complications that make them more vulnerable. 

“The situation seems somewhat extraordinary for us, because they don’t speak Spanish, and it puts them in a situation in which they are increasingly exposed to risk,” Luis Garcia, a state government official in Mexico, told Reuters about the return of Haitians to the region. “The situation seems somewhat extraordinary for us, because they don’t speak Spanish, and it puts them in a situation in which they are increasingly exposed to risk.”

The White House did not respond to a request for comment. 

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