A senior U.S. diplomat to Haiti resigns, citing the Biden administration’s ‘inhumane’ deportation policy.


Daily Political Briefing

Sept. 23, 2021, 10:05 a.m. ET

Sept. 23, 2021, 10:05 a.m. ET


ImageHaitian deportees arriving to the airport in Port Au Prince, Haiti earlier this week.
Credit…Federico Rios for The New York Times

A senior American diplomat who oversees Haiti policy has resigned, two U.S. officials said, submitting a letter to the State Department that excoriated the Biden administration’s “inhumane, counterproductive decision” to send Haitian migrants back to a country that has been wracked this summer by a deadly earthquake and political turmoil.

The diplomat, Daniel Foote, was appointed special envoy to Haiti in July, just weeks after President Jovenel Moïse was shot in his bedroom during a nighttime raid on his residence. Mr. Foote, a former ambassador to Zambia and acting assistant secretary for international narcotics and law enforcement affairs, did not respond to messages for comment on Thursday morning.

In his stinging resignation letter, dated Wednesday, Mr. Foote criticized the Biden administration for deporting some of the thousands of the Haitian migrants who had traveled to the Texas border from Mexico and Central America in recent days.

“I will not be associated with the United States’ inhumane, counterproductive decision to deport thousands of Haitian refugees and illegal immigrants to Haiti, a country where American officials are confined to secure compounds because of the danger posed by armed gangs in control of daily life,” Mr. Foote wrote in the letter, which was first reported by PBS NewsHour. Its authenticity was confirmed by a senior State Department official and a congressional official.

Mr. Foote also blasted a “cycle of international political interventions in Haiti” that “has consistently produced catastrophic results,” and he warned that the number of migrants to American borders “will only grow as we add to Haiti’s unacceptable misery.”

In May, the Biden administration extended temporary protected status for 150,000 Haitians already living in the United States. But tens of thousands more Haitians have attempted to cross into the United States since then despite not qualifying for the program.

Mr. Foote was said to have pushed for greater oversight and responsibilities in his job as envoy to Haiti, efforts that were rejected by senior State Department officials.

In his resignation letter, Mr. Foote confirmed that “my recommendations have been ignored and dismissed.”

“Our policy approach to Haiti remains deeply flawed,” he wrote.

The rise in Haitian migration began in the months after President Biden took office and quickly began reversing former President Donald J. Trump’s strictest immigration policies, which was interpreted by many as a sign that the United States would be more welcoming to migrants.

The U.S. Border Patrol said that more than 9,000 migrants, mostly from Haiti, were being held in a temporary staging area under the Del Rio International Bridge in Texas as agents worked as quickly as they could to process them.

This week, about 300 Haitians were deported back to Haiti — the first among some 14,000 migrants who authorities in the country expect to be returned over the next month. Haitian officials have pleaded with the United States to grant a “humanitarian moratorium,” amid widespread instability.

But the Biden administration, facing the highest level of border crossings in decades, has enforced policies intended to slow the entry of migrants. On Monday, Alejandro N. Mayorkas, the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, said newly-arrived Haitians would not be covered by a temporary residence order that protects those who had entered the United States before July 29.

“We are very concerned that Haitians who are taking this irregular migration path are receiving false information that the border is open or that temporary protected status is available,” Mr. Mayorkas said during a news conference on Monday in Del Rio, Texas. “I want to make sure that it is known that this is not the way to come to the United States.”

Officials at Haiti’s Embassy in Washington did not respond to messages for comment Thursday morning.

Credit…Stefani Reynolds for The New York Times

President Biden and his team are expected to continue negotiating with Democrats on Thursday as they race to overcome entrenched divisions over his multi-trillion-dollar domestic policy agenda.

While the White House did not immediately identify who would participate in the meetings, officials said the discussions would focus on advancing both a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill and a second, $3.5 trillion domestic policy plan.

Party leaders now hope to coalesce around a compromise on the domestic policy package by Monday, when a vote is planned on the infrastructure measure. But agreement on a total cost, which programs to include and which to jettison, and how to pay for it will involve painful choices for an already divided caucus.

Thursday’s talks at the White House come after Mr. Biden spent much of Wednesday in meetings with Democratic leaders and nearly two dozen lawmakers, listening to the concerns of the feuding factions in his party over his two top domestic priorities. Moderates are pressing for quick action on the Senate-passed bipartisan infrastructure bill, while progressives have vowed to withhold their votes for that measure until approval of the far broader social safety net measure that is to include vast new investments in climate, education, health and social programs.

Mr. Biden urged moderates who have balked at the size of that package to put forward an overall spending level that they could support, as well as the priorities they wanted to see funded, according to senators and aides.

Democrats are aiming to pass the legislation on a party-line vote using a fast-track budget process known as reconciliation that shields it from a filibuster and allows it to pass on a simple majority vote. But because of the slim margins of control on Capitol Hill, Mr. Biden needs the support of every Democrat in the Senate and can lose as few as three in the House to win enactment of the plan.

“Democrats have all indicated that we are working on and willing to work on a reconciliation bill,” said Representative Stephanie Murphy of Florida, a moderate who has pushed for a swift vote on the bipartisan infrastructure measure first. “When you’re talking about a bill that touches on all elements of American lives, we should take all the time that is necessary to ensure that we craft a good bill that achieves the goals that it intends.”

But progressive lawmakers who want to see the reconciliation bill completed first pressed Mr. Biden on Wednesday to weigh in with House Democratic leaders against holding a Monday vote on the infrastructure bill. Concerned that their more conservative-leaning colleagues may refuse to support the larger plan once the infrastructure measure is enacted, liberal Democrats have said they will withhold their votes for that bill until the reconciliation plan clears Congress.

“They’ve raised their concerns, and the president said, ‘Let me think about it, let me talk to the speaker and majority leader,’” Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon and the chairman of the Finance Committee, told reporters on Wednesday evening. “He made no commitments,” he added. “He heard us out.”

Mr. Wyden said the president had been in a “vintage Joe Biden, let’s-get-it-done mood.”

Credit…J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press

House Democrats plan on Friday to push through broad legislation to uphold abortion rights, taking urgent action after a major Supreme Court setback as they brace for a ruling next year that could further roll back access to abortion nationwide.

The House vote will be largely symbolic given that the bill, the Women’s Health Protection Act, has little chance of advancing because of Republican opposition in the Senate. But House Democrats’ decision to consider it reflects their view that the issue could resonate strongly in the midterm elections next year, particularly if female voters see the Supreme Court action as a threat to rights that many believed had been long settled.

Democrats moved swiftly to schedule action on the measure after the court refused this month to block a Texas law that prohibits most abortions after six weeks of gestation. It would guarantee the right to abortion through federal law, pre-empting hundreds of state laws governing the procedure around the country. Democrats argue that it would codify Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that established a constitutional right to abortion.

The bill’s authors say they began drafting it a decade ago in response to emerging efforts at the state level to impose stringent requirements on those seeking and providing abortions, as well as the increasingly conservative makeup of the court. They say that time is of the essence because the justices are set to rule next year on a Mississippi law that severely restricts abortions.

“It became very evident that we needed to have something that would push back against all these state restrictions,” said Representative Judy Chu, Democrat of California and the lead author of the measure. “We could see that change was possible at the Supreme Court, and we knew we had to make sure that Roe v. Wade was protected.”

But opponents of the law — including some Republicans who have supported abortion rights — argue that it would go far beyond the landmark court precedent, stripping states of much of their ability to regulate abortion and impose measures intended to make the procedure safe. They say it would lead to many more abortions in the late stages of pregnancy.

“This legislation is really about a mandate by the federal government that would demand abortion on demand, without any consideration for anyone, including the conscience of the provider,” said Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Republican of Washington and a chief foe of the bill.

Credit…Pool photo by Matt York

Republicans in the Arizona Senate are expected on Friday to unveil the results of the deeply flawed review they ordered into Democratic election victories last November in the state’s largest county.

The study, conducted by Republican loyalists and conspiracy theorists, some of whom previously had called the election rigged, has long since lost any pretense of being an objective review of the 2020 election. It focuses on the votes that saw President Biden narrowly win the state and elected a Democrat, Mark Kelly, to the U.S. Senate, and its origins reflect the baseless Republican claims of a stolen election.

An Arizona Senate spokesman, Mike Philipsen, said that a public briefing on the findings would be held on Friday at 1 p.m. Pacific time, and that a link to the full report would eventually be posted on the Senate Republican caucus website.

But regardless of the outcome, the effort in Arizona has already inspired copycat efforts in other states. And it has become a way to keep alive false claims of fraud and undermine faith in the 2020 election and democracy itself. In Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, for example, Republican-dominated Legislatures have ordered Arizona-style reviews of the 2020 vote in their states, sometimes in consultation with the same conspiracy theorists behind the Arizona investigation.

“We’re at an inflection point,” said Chuck Coughlin, a Phoenix pollster and Republican political consultant who has been skeptical of the Arizona investigation. “When the results drop, I’ll be curious to see how the Legislature’s Republican leaders react to this, including the State Senate itself.”

Legitimate audits of the vote ordered by the Republican-controlled Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, which oversaw the election, have repeatedly found no evidence of fraud that could have tainted the results. And the inquiry has been dogged from its start by slipshod and sometimes bizarre conduct.

The firms conducting it had essentially no prior experience in election work, and experts said their haphazard recounting of ballots guaranteed unreliable results. Election officials said security lapses raised the risk that voting equipment had been compromised. And some aspects of the investigation — checking ballots for secret watermarks, and for bamboo fibers that would suggest they were printed in Asia — were based on outlandish conspiracy theories.

But the chairman of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, Jack Sellers, said that whatever the findings, the Arizona Senate investigation had lent a veneer of credibility to charges of election fraud that will be tough to overcome.

“Anybody who pays attention knows there are no remaining issues” with the November vote, he said. “But it doesn’t seem to take a lot to keep some people having doubts. I’m not sure there’s a cure for that.”

Credit…Hiroko Masuike/The New York Times

WASHINGTON — The Biden administration has finalized a rule to phase down the use of a powerful planet-warming chemical used in air-conditioners and refrigerators, its latest effort to put climate change at the center of its agenda ahead of a pivotal United Nations summit.

Under a regulation expected to be issued Thursday morning, the Environmental Protection Agency will slash the use of hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs, by 85 percent over the next 15 years. The White House also will announce a task force and other enforcement efforts to prevent the illegal production or importation of the destructive man-made compound.

HFCs were used to replace ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons in the 1980s but have turned out to be a significant driver of global warming. While they are only a small percentage of greenhouse gases and stay in the atmosphere for a short time, they have a thousand times the heat-trapping potency carbon dioxide, the most abundant climate pollutant.

A fact sheet released by the White House called the set of policies “one of the most consequential climate actions taken by the federal government” and said it would cut the equivalent of three years worth of climate pollution from the electricity sector. Experts said the rule would go a long way in helping the United States make good on a pledge that President Biden made to cut the country’s greenhouse gas emissions 50 to 52 percent below 2005 levels by the end of the decade.

The move comes on the heels of a pact between the United States and Europe to eliminate a third of global emissions from methane, another powerful greenhouse gas, by 2030. So far 15 top methane-emitting countries, have signed on, including Mexico, Indonesia and Iraq. The Biden administration is also poised to put forward new regulations on the oil and gas sector, which is the largest industrial source of methane.

As nations prepare for global climate talks that are scheduled to take place in less than six weeks in Glasgow, the Biden administration is under increasing pressure to show it can deliver on that target, particularly as broad U.S. climate legislation faces an uncertain future in Congress.

Gina McCarthy, the White House climate change adviser, said in a statement that reducing HFCs was “needed to meet the moment” on global warming. She called the policies “a win for climate and a win for American manufacturing.”

Environmental groups and the business community have championed phasing out HFCs and supported a 2016 accord signed in Kigali, Rwanda, in the last days of the Obama administration, as well as related bipartisan legislation passed by Congress in December. Several industry leaders said they had been told by the White House that Mr. Biden intended to soon send the Kigali accord to the Senate for ratification soon.

Stephen R. Yurek, president and C.E.O. of the Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute, a trade association, said that adopting the Kigali accord was important even though the United States was already moving toward implementing it.

“It’s about reputation and credibility,” he said. Formally joining the broader global effort, he said, was “good for the environment, good for the economy and good for trade.”

Credit…John Moore/Getty Images

President Biden declared to the United Nations on Tuesday that “for the first time in 20 years, the United States is not at war. We’ve turned the page.”

One day earlier, a missile fired from an American drone incinerated a car driving along a remote road in northwestern Syria, a strike aimed against a suspected Qaeda operative. Three weeks before that, the military launched an airstrike in Somalia targeting members of the Shabab militant group, part of an American air campaign in that country that has intensified in recent months.

There are no longer American troops in Afghanistan, but America’s wars go on.

Mr. Biden’s assertion at the United Nations was intended to show he had made good on his pledge to end America’s longest war, but it was just the latest attempt by an American president in the two decades since the Sept. 11 attacks to massage the language of warfare to mask a sometimes inconvenient reality: that America is still engaged in armed conflict throughout the world.

There are more than 40,000 American troops stationed around the Middle East.

“Our troops are not coming home. We need to be honest about that,” Representative Tom Malinowski, Democrat of New Jersey, said during congressional testimony this month from Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken. “They are merely moving to other bases in the same region to conduct the same counterterrorism missions, including in Afghanistan.”

The shadow wars fought with drones and special operations troops have been as much a part of the history of the post-Sept. 11 era as the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Biden administration officials have been clear that combat missions in other countries will continue, namely those that do not involve large deployments of American troops or draw intense news media scrutiny.

Credit…Jeenah Moon for The New York Times

John Kerry, the former United States senator and secretary of state, is also the first presidential climate envoy. That has made him a kind of traveling salesman for the environment, shuttling from country to country with an urgent pitch to save the planet.

He’s visited 14 countries in nine months, some of them more than once. He flies commercial these days and, at 77, the travel is tiring. But he is under mounting pressure.

With less than six weeks before leaders from around the world gather in Glasgow, Scotland, for a pivotal United Nations climate summit, Mr. Kerry needs to convince other countries to commit to sharply turn away in this decade from burning coal, oil and gas and cut the resulting carbon emissions, which are heating the planet to dangerous levels.

Mr. Kerry recently described his decision to return to government as “what the fight of public life is all about.” In an interview during a recent trip to India, he said, “I deeply believe that this is a major crisis for our world. And this is a moment where we have a chance to do something about it. And who can say no to a president of the United States who asks you to do that at this particular moment in time.”

His sales approach to international political and business leaders is simple: “We’ve got to do what the science tells us to do.”

But his task is enormous, and his path often uphill. Mr. Kerry is trying to reassert American leadership and illustrate Mr. Biden’s claim that “America is back” — a difficult proposition following the presidency of Donald J. Trump, who questioned the science behind climate change and withdrew the United States from the 2015 Paris climate accord. None of the other 196 signatory nations have done so.

Allies openly ask Mr. Kerry whether they can still count on the United States. “I said ‘Look, come next election, you may have Trump back,” R.K. Singh, India’s power minister said a day after meeting with Mr. Kerry. “So then what happens?”

Mr. Kerry’s mission is further complicated by political fissures at home and the fact that President Biden’s ambitious climate agenda may not survive a divided Congress.

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