Press Release

For Immediate Release: Mar. 19, 2024

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#WelcomeWithDignity Campaign Condemns Sending Haitians Seeking Asylum to Guantanamo Bay

Washington, DCAs insecurity rises in Haiti, the #WelcomeWithDignity Campaign urges the U.S. government and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to respond compassionately and humanely. 

The U.S. government’s reported plans to intercept fleeing Haitians and send them to Guantanamo Bay for processing and repatriation are shameful and cruel. Haitians are seeking refuge, and Gov. DeSantis’ preemptive measures to militarize the Florida coast dehumanizes those pursuing their human right to seek safety. 

The federal and Florida governments must allow Haitian refugees a meaningful way to exercise their right to apply for asylum, by expediting and expanding pathways for Haitians to seek protections in the U.S. and halting all repatriation back to Haiti.

“Haitians and their loved ones will be severely traumatized if they are forced to return to their home country. We urge the Biden administration to embrace solutions that center people’s right to safety,” said Melina Roche, #WelcomeWithDignity Campaign Manager. “This includes increasing current humanitarian protections for Haitians and considering additional pathwaysin addition to clear access to asylum protections.”

“We urge the Biden administration to immediately ensure humane, safe, and fair access to protections for displaced Haitians,” said Katharina Obser, director of the Migrant Rights and Justice program at the Women’s Refugee Commission. “The crisis in Haiti has resulted in thousands displaced and in need of refuge. No one should be returned to trauma and harm – including horrific gender-based violence and a lack of reproductive healthcare for women in particular. Such a crisis demands pathways to protection, including meaningful access to asylum, the extension and redesignation of Haiti for temporary protected status (TPS), and the lifting of barriers to the administration’s parole program. Deportation flights to Haiti, interdictions at sea, and detention camps in Guantanamo Bay would only increase the suffering Haitians face.”

“We have watched, month after month, deportation flights to Haiti, despite the crystal-clear deadly danger on the ground only steps away from the plane. These flights only paused when gangs violently seized the airport and the 29 February flight was canceled, not out of conscience, but out of necessity,” said Thomas Cartwright in leadership with Witness at the Border. “To this day, there has been no public comment by the administration that these deportations have been paused. No commitment of conscience – which is disturbing and disappointing – and sea repatriations continue without any pause. We call on the administration to end all deportations of Haitians, including repatriations by sea, which are even raising the specter of America’ as we were promised by President Biden. Truly we are beyond this. This is NOT ‘restoring the soul of America’ as we were promised by President Biden.”

“Haitians and their loved ones are coming to our country seeking safety and refuge as their country experiences a time of severe and escalating crisis,” said Victoria Neilson, Supervising Attorney at the National Immigration Project. “We urge the Biden administration to prioritize providing security and protections for Haitian refugees immediately by implementing a moratorium on deportations to Haiti and extending and redesignating Haiti for Temporary Protection Status. To send Haitian refugees to Guantanamo Bay – a facility widely recognized for its injustice and abuse  – would be to add another chapter to this country’s history of mistreatment towards the Haitian people.”

“We are deeply alarmed by recent reporting that the Biden administration is considering detaining Haitians interdicted at sea at the Guantánamo Bay naval base and other offshore migrant detention centers in third countries. In light of the escalating crisis in Haiti, where 160,000 individuals are displaced within the Port-au-Prince metropolitan area alone, we urge the administration to abandon this plan and instead focus on creating safe pathways to protection for Haitian nationals that include access to a credible and humane asylum process,” said Taisha Saintil, Senior Policy Analyst at UndocuBlack Network. “This will not be the first time that this administration has aimed to repeat the history of systemically committing racism and mistreatment toward Haitians. Instead of prematurely denying them protection by imprisoning them at Guantánamo Bay or detention centers in other countries, the administration should avail itself of well-established statutory authority to bring Haitians forbidden by the U.S. government to U.S. soil and take all available steps to restore and expand asylum processing at ports of entry. This includes urgently expediting CHNV applications and ceasing all deportation flights. Such measures reflect our humanitarian values and are necessary responses to the dire conditions from which these individuals seek refuge. We also call on the extension and redesignation of TPS for Haiti. Recently, President Biden echoed that the U.S. is a ‘friend’ of Haiti, emphasizing the U.S.’s commitment to support Haiti during its challenging times. We request that this friendship be apparent in words and deeds by expanding protections for Haitian nationals in the U.S. and abroad.” 

“The Biden administration has an opportunity to respond to the humanitarian crisis in Haiti with compassion and doing so will strengthen the United States and help stabilize Haiti,” said Vanessa Cárdenas, Executive Director of America’s Voice. “Specifically, President Biden has the ability to strategically expand the use of humanitarian parole and Temporary Protected Status – and halt all deportation flights – to make sure Haitians seeking asylum reach safety and those already here are able to work to support themselves and families back home. The President has an opportunity to lead while focusing on solutions, especially because some American politicians are already exploiting fear of Haitian immigrants and trying to use the situation in Haiti to divide Americans.”

“Why does the Biden administration continue to deport Haitians to dangerous conditions in Haiti, where armed groups are currently brutalizing the country? Why is the United States threatening to imprison Haitian refugees—people trying to find safety for themselves and their children—in Guantanamo Bay?,” asked Margaret Cargioli, Directing Attorney for Policy & Advocacy at the Immigrant Defenders Law Center. “We must safeguard Haitian lives by halting deportations and the interception of refugees at sea. The current humanitarian crisis in Haiti calls for compassionate solutions, including increasing access to asylum, extending and redesignating Haiti for temporary protected status, expanding existing parole programs, and expediting family petitions.”

“The Biden administration should immediately cease any and all plans to detain and repatriate Haitians interdicted at sea,” said Sunil Varghese, Policy Director at the International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP). “Instead of focusing on detention at Guantanamo Bay and carrying out removals to Haiti, the administration should work with the diaspora and advocates to preserve the right to seek asylum as more and more people are forced to flee Haiti for safety. This is not the time to sacrifice the rights and dignity of asylum seekers.”

“Haitians escaping violence and persecution should be welcomed with compassion, not punished, locked up, or returned to the very horrors they have fled,” said Blaine Bookey, Legal Director of the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies (CGRS). “The U.S. government must ensure meaningful access to a fair asylum process, whether Haitians are arriving at our borders by land or sea. As conditions continue to deteriorate, the Biden administration has a legal and moral imperative to ensure that no Haitian is sent back to danger. The administration must halt all deportation flights and repatriations by sea and redesignate Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to keep our Haitian immigrant communities safe.”

“America’s moms are deeply concerned about the moms, children and families caught up in the terrible violence in Haiti, which is escalating,” said Claudia Tristán, Immigration Campaign Director at MomsRising. “We want those seeking refuge and safety to be treated with compassion, dignity and respect. Deportation flights to Haiti must be halted in light of the violence and humanitarian crisis in the country. Temporary Protected Status for Haitians should be extended and redesignated considering the current conditions of Haiti make it impossible for a safe return. The administration should also expand and expedite parole for Haitians during this time. Moreover, we hope the reports that the administration is considering detaining Haitian asylum-seekers at Guantanamo Bay are untrue and that Gov. DeSantis will refrain from taking any action that would separate families or put those fleeing horrific violence at risk. All children, regardless of where they come from or what they look like, deserve to live in peace and be free from danger.”

“ILJ Network condemns the inhumane plans by Biden’s administration to intercept Haitian migrants seeking safety in the U.S. and send them to Guantanamo Bay to be processed and deported during the escalating social turmoil in Haiti. Their detention in this U.S. military base —infamously employed in the 90’s to imprison Haitians and HIV-positive refugees, explicitly singles-out Black migrants once again, and casts them as criminals simply for exercising their human right to seek asylum,” said Rev. Carlos S. Reyes Rodríguez, Culture and Outreach Manager of Immigration Law & Justice Network. “Such decisions further the xenophobic and racist sentiment that this country holds over the Black immigrant community. Initiatives like these, in addition to Gov. DeSantis militarization of the Florida coast, undermines the principles of asylum and refuge. It’s imperative to put a stop to policies that threaten human rights and increase the criminalization of migrants. Instead, we must demand the federal and state governments to provide Haitians a dignified and fair path to find protection.”



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The #WelcomeWithDignity Campaign for asylum rights is composed of more than 100 organizations committed to transforming the way the United States receives and protects people forced to flee their homes to ensure they are treated humanely and fairly. To learn more and join our campaign visit: