Washington—Representative Gregory W. Meeks, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, today delivered the following opening remarks at a full committee hearing titled “Policy Recommendations on Haiti for the Biden Administration”:
"It has been more than 11 years since Haiti suffered the devastating earthquake that killed hundreds of thousands, displaced more than a million people, and caused billions of dollars in damage. While I am grateful that there is continued U.S. assistance to Haiti and am inspired by the resilience of the Haitian people, we must sadly recognize that the situation in Haiti has continued to deteriorate in the decade since the earthquake. Moving forward, we must be frank with ourselves and with the Haitian people as we assess the strengths and the shortcomings of our assistance programs in Haiti.
"Today, Haiti faces a multi-pronged crisis. President Moise has ruled by decree for 14 months, top government officials have been sanctioned by the U.S. government for committing human rights violations, and Haitian parents are afraid to send their children to school or travel to work – not just because of the pandemic but because kidnapping and gang violence has spiraled out of control.
"Under the last administration - as U.S. foreign policy turned a blind eye to matters of human rights abuses and corruption - we’ve witnessed the Haitian government cover up corruption allegations, clamp down on the rights of journalists, and violently break up peaceful protests with virtually zero condemnation.
"With the Biden administration, America is once again willing to speak out against these actions, but there will be little time to waste. In the first year of President Biden’s term, Haiti is slated to hold a Constitutional Referendum as well as a parliamentary and presidential elections. How the United States responds to these challenges early on will play a pivotal role in establishing buy-in and trust from Haitian civil society and the Haitian people at large.
"However, the solutions to the crises in Haiti will not come from Washington, New York, or Geneva. These solutions must come from and for the Haitian people. As Members of Congress, we must listen to the Haitian civil society, as well as our constituents in the Haitian diaspora. I’m proud to have a vibrant Haitian community in my district of Southeast Queens, New York, and value the perspectives they share. We must work multilaterally to elevate those voices, and take seriously their concerns.
"One concern I hear frequently is skepticism about Haiti’s readiness for elections. Though I would love nothing more than to see free, fair, and inclusive elections held immediately, we must listen to the outcry of Haitian voices who are telling us that elections this year will be neither free, fair, or inclusive if the voices of civil society and the opposition continue to be shunned.
"Instead of focusing on holding a Constitutional Referendum that many in Haiti and in the international community have denounced as unconstitutional, President Moise must take the initiative and begin serious dialogue to discuss what a peaceful transition of power can look like.
"I have called on the Biden administration to recognize that holding elections for elections-sake in Haiti will lead to the same outcome as in the 2015 election. In order to move away from the political paralysis that has gripped Haiti over the last few years, the Haitian people need to believe that their voices matter.
"Finally, I want to reiterate my concerns that several of my colleagues and I expressed to Secretary Mayorkas last month about the continued expulsion of Haitian migrants under Title 42 of the Public Health Service Act. Last month, at least 966 Haitians were deported to Haiti, the vast majority of which were Title 42 expulsion without any asylum, no screening whatsoever. Given all of the challenges Haiti already faces, it is untenable for the United States to continue expelling Haitian migrants under Title 42.
"The problems Haiti face are complex and are only getting more challenging. These difficulties will require a new approach from the Biden Administration with active engagement from Congress, particularly this Committee, and increased collaboration with Haitian civil society, the Haitian American diaspora, and important regional partners like CARICOM. In my capacity as Chair of this Committee, I will be working to make sure this administration works closely with Congress to do what is best for the people of Haiti."
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