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U.S. Special Envoy To Haiti Quits Over Deportations Of Haitian Migrants

Daniel Foote, here during a 2016 congressional hearing, has resigned as the U.S. special envoy for Haiti.
Drew Angerer
Getty Images
Daniel Foote, here during a 2016 congressional hearing, has resigned as the U.S. special envoy for Haiti.

Updated September 23, 2021 at 1:35 PM ET

Daniel Foote, the U.S. special envoy for Haiti, has handed his resignation to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, saying he "will not be associated with the United States' inhumane, counterproductive decision to deport thousands of Haitian refugees and illegal immigrants to Haiti" from the U.S. border.

Foote, a career diplomat, said that the U.S. policy approach to the country is deeply flawed and that Haitians shouldn't be sent back to "a country where American officials are confined to secure compounds because of the danger posed by armed gangs in control of daily life."

The letter's contents were confirmed to NPR's Michele Kelemen by a Democratic congressional aide who asked not to be identified further.

In his letter, Foote, who has been the special envoy since July 22, wrote that his recommendations "have been ignored and dismissed." The State Department responded in a statement, saying it was "unfortunate" that Foote had "mischaracterized the circumstances of his resignation."

"There have been multiple senior-level policy conversations on Haiti, where all proposals, including those led by Special Envoy Foote, were fully considered in a rigorous and transparent policy process," the statement from spokesperson Ned Price said. "Some of those proposals were determined to be harmful to our commitment to the promotion of democracy in Haiti and were rejected during the policy process. For him to say his proposals were ignored is simply false."

Foote's resignation comes as the Biden administration is facing widespread criticism for enforcing a Trump-era order of expelling migrants without giving them a chance to seek asylum, citing public health concerns.

The American Civil Liberties Union and other groups have slammed the U.S. response to the migrant surge, particularly after agents on horseback were seen this past weekend chasing and grabbing people who were carrying food back to their families.

In a sign of the increasingly desperate situation in Haiti, migrants who were flown back to the country caused chaos Tuesday when they rushed to get on a plane bound for the U.S. at Toussaint Louverture International Airport in Port-au-Prince. One group of migrants tried to force their way onto another plane, assaulting the pilots, according to a report by NBC News. Others who recently returned to Haiti threw shoes at a plane as a guard rushed to close its doors, The Associated Press reported.

In a statement to NPR, the State Department said that to "address the immediate challenges that returnees face, the United States is working with the International Organization [for] Migration to ensure that returning Haitian migrants are met at the airport and provided with immediate assistance."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Michele Kelemen has been with NPR for two decades, starting as NPR's Moscow bureau chief and now covering the State Department and Washington's diplomatic corps. Her reports can be heard on all NPR News programs, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered.