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Haitian advocates call on Biden to turn page on 'cruel asylum policies'

A coalition of advocacy groups on Thursday ran a full-page newspaper ad panning President Biden for his "cruel asylum policies" and their effect on repatriated Haitians and people turned away at the border.

The ad, which ran on a full page of the Washington, D.C., edition of The New York Times, is part of the Welcome With Dignity campaign, a grouping of dozens of individuals and organizations that want the Biden administration to revamp the U.S. asylum process.

The ad will be followed by demonstrations throughout the country led by Haitian Bridge Alliance, a Haitian diaspora advocacy group, demanding an end to deportations to the ravaged Caribbean nation.

In the ad, the organizations demand the end of Title 42 and the cessation of expulsions to Haiti.

"Your cruel asylum policies have human consequences," reads the ad targeting Biden, adding that since September more than 7,500 people have been expelled to Haiti.

"Since you took office, there have been at least 6,356 kidnappings, sexual assaults, and other violent attacks against people seeking safety turned away at the border."

Immigration advocates have grown increasingly impatient with the Biden administration for its continued implementation of Title 42, a Trump-era border management policy that allows U.S. officials to immediately expel foreign nationals without hearing asylum claims, under the guise of pandemic sanitary protections.

The Department of Homeland Security under Biden has said Title 42 is a necessary sanitary measure, despite the fact that many of the foreign nationals - particularly Haitians - who are expelled under the measure spend more than two weeks in U.S. custody.

Haitian nationals who were in the U.S. before July 29 are eligible to apply for temporary protected status (TPS), a humanitarian program meant to avoid repatriating foreign nationals to dangerous conditions in their home country.

But tens of thousands of Haitians who have left Haiti over the past decade but not yet reached the U.S. are subject to Title 42 - rather than asylum proceedings or protection under TPS - if they set foot on American soil without prior authorization.

Haitian advocates have decried the administration's non-application of long-standing asylum laws, and say that the TPS designation with a cutoff date shows a lack of humanitarian concern.

"I try not to have high expectations," said Taisha Saintil, legislative and communications director for the Haitian Bridge Alliance, which is part of the Welcome With Dignity campaign. "Rescinding a Trump-era policy is the least I would expect."

Saintil said Haitians in the U.S. are dismayed at the continued repatriations of Haitians to a country that the U.S. has formally recognized as too dangerous to receive deportees.

They are particularly peeved at Biden himself - the target of Thursday's ads - because during the campaign Biden visited Little Haiti in Miami to promise better conditions for the diaspora, she said.

"The main target right now is the president and vice president," said Saintil. "It's their administration - everything they do reflects on them. They have the final say. They have the power to start things and to stop things."

And Saintil added the Biden administration's aggressive stance against Haitian migrants will reflect itself at the polls in 2022 and 2024, as Haitian Americans and Black voters consider whether to participate in elections.

"Why do you think these lives don't matter? That's a question I would love to ask the president himself," said Saintil.

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