Here’s the latest on the fate of Haitian migrants in Texas, Biden response to backlash

Daniel Foote, the U.S. special envoy to Haiti, resigned in protest Thursday, over the Biden administration's move to deport Haitian migrants back to their troubled home country. Foote called the handling of migrants in Del Rio, Texas, “inhumane” and “counterproductive.” White House correspondent Yamiche Alcindor broke the story of the special envoy's resignation and joins Judy Woodruff to discuss.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    As we reported, Daniel Foote, who was the U.S. special envoy to Haiti, resigned in protest today, putting the spotlight again on the Biden administration's handling of mostly Haitian migrants in Del Rio, Texas.

    Our own Yamiche Alcindor broke the story of the special envoy's resignation, and she joins me now.

    So, Yamiche, hello.

    What more do we know about his decision? What was behind it?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Well, the former envoy to Haiti, Daniel Foote, essentially said that he didn't have a voice in this administration. He said that he was ignored.

    He also said he didn't want to be connected to what he saw as cruel and inhumane policies. He said that it was wrong to be deporting Haitians back to Haiti, because that island nation is facing a number of crises, including the aftermath of the political turmoil, the assassination of the president, as well as an earthquake that hit the country last week. I want to — last month, rather.

    I want to read part of Daniel Foote's letter, because it was a blistering letter.

    It said, in part: "I will not be associated with the United States' inhumane, counterproductive decision to deport thousands of Haitian refugees. The collapsed state" — and he's referring to Haiti — "is unable to provide security or basic services. Or more refugees — and more refugees will fuel further desperation and crime."

    So there he is saying that Haiti is actually being harmed by sending back — the United States sending back Haitian migrants. He also said that the United States shouldn't be supporting and backing the current prime minister of Haiti, Ariel Henry, saying instead that he said that the United States should be working with civil society, which is something that we have told our viewers over and over again, which is what the civil society has been pleading with the Biden administration to do.

    That said, officials in the Biden administration have been pushing back very hard on Daniel Foote. They have been saying that his allegations are false, that he's miscategorizing why he was — why he's resigning.

    The secretary of state, as well as the deputy secretary of state, the White House press secretary, they all say that his views were valued, they were heard; they just were not followed through.

    I also spoke to a senior administration official who said Daniel Foote never actually raised objections to Haitians being deported or to their treatment on the border.

    That being said, that's something that, of course, Daniel Foote takes issue with.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, Yamiche, you were telling us you have also been in touch with a number of Haitian leaders, Haitian activists, who have been very critical of the Biden administration's response to all this.

    What are they saying? And what is the administration saying to that?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Well, there's a lot of outrage.

    People are saying that this is cruel, the way that the United States is treating Haitian migrants. I talked to one activist. His name is Alix Desulme. He's a councilman in North Miami, Florida. And he's also the chairman of the National Haitian American Elected Officials Network.

    Here's what he had to say:

  • Alix Desulme, National Haitian American Elected Officials Network:

    They need to find a solution for those who try to get here, to treat them fairly. We don't know what's the difference between this administration and the previous administration.

    So this is not what I think anyone has signed up for.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    He also said that President Biden's silence on this speaks volumes.

    And I pushed the White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, on this specific issue, on President Biden not speaking out. Here's what she said.

    Why is he not using that bully pulpit to speak out forcefully himself on the treatment of Haitians?

  • Jen Psaki, White House Press Secretary:

    His point of view is also reflected in the actions that have been taken through the administration, including the investigation, including the change in policy.

    The secretary of homeland security oversees these efforts, and has been quite outspoken and quite visible on what steps we should take moving forward. And he certainly may still speak to it.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    So that was the White House press secretary talking about a number of changing policies.

    Part of the policies that change it is that the Department of Homeland Security has now launched an investigation into those images of Border Patrol agents on horseback using reins against migrants. They're also suspending right now the horse patrol unit in Del Rio, Texas.

    So that is a big change that they announced today. That being said, activists want to see so much more done.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Really interesting.

    Finally, Yamiche, what is known about what's going on right now at that Del Rio crossing in Texas, where many of these migrants still are? And what happens next?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    They're — at its peak, the migrant camp was at 14,000 people living in squalid conditions with no food, with very little access to water.

    Now it's down to about 3,000 or 4,000 people, officials say. They also say, though, that deportations are going to continue. These repatriation flights, there have been 13 of them to Haiti so far, that they're going to continue because of Title 42, which is a Trump era law connected to public health.

    That being said, the administration has also said that some families, some young children, some pregnant women, that they're going to be allowed to stay in the United States. And sources tell me that the majority of these migrants are actually being allowed to stay in the United States now.

    But we will have to watch to see if there's any other policy changes, because activists are saying the way that some of these migrants are being treated, they're being treated like slaves, they say. And that's, of course, a big accusation. But it's an accusation made out of passion and outrage.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Such a fast-moving story. And I know you are continuing to stay on top of it.

    Yamiche, thank you very much.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Thanks so much.

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