NBC: Say, why does Biden admin want a contractor with "Haitian creole" capability for Gitmo?

AP Photo/Evan Vucci

File this one in the “too fun to check” category — a likely fumble by NBC, but with an assist from Joe Biden and his team’s incompetent handling of the border crisis. Jazz just wrote about the Department of Homeland Security’s reluctance to answer questions about the destination of Haitian migrants. Could one of their destinations be Cuba? NBC says wi, but DHS says men non, in Haitian Creole:

The Biden administration is advertising for a new contract to operate a migrant detention facility at the U.S. naval base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, with a requirement that some of the guards speak Spanish and Haitian Creole, according to government records.

A little-known immigrant holding facility on the base has a capacity of 120 people, the records say, and it “will have an estimated daily population of 20 people,” according to a solicitation for bids issued Friday by the Department of Homeland Security. According to the solicitation, formal bidding is expected to take place later this fall.

“The service provider shall be responsible to maintain on site the necessary equipment to erect temporary housing facilities for populations that exceed 120 and up to 400 migrants in a surge event,” the contract solicitation says.

DHS sharply denied any such intent to use Gitmo as a holding facility for Haitian migrants. They claim that the request for bids is part of another effort entirely — at-sea interdictions:

As NBC later notes, the US used Guantanamo to house Haitian migrants in the early 1990s, a full decade before we used it as a military detention facility in the war on terror. At one time, the base at Guantanamo Bay held “as many as 12,000” Haitians who had attempted to flee the “Baby Doc” Duvalier regime by sea. Duvalier had granted the US permission to patrol Haitian waters to pick up those attempting to get to the US by sea, but there were so many that the Coast Guard ships were quickly overwhelmed. Gitmo, however, also turned out to be problematic and not well suited at the time for that level of detention.

For those who don’t recall this episode and the legal fights that ensued, this YouTube documentary covers the basics:

However, the US later fortified Gitmo for such purposes over succeeding administrations. Reportedly, Donald Trump wanted to convert part of the base to deal with illegal immigrants by classifying them as “enemy combatants.” This episode comes from Miles Taylor, the DHS bureaucrat who had brief fame as “Anonymous,” so one needs to consider the source there, too:

Among the many incendiary details contained in A Warning, a behind-the-scenes account of the White House under Trump, is the revelation that the president floated the idea of changing the legal designation of migrants as a way of forcibly keeping them out of the country. The change would effectively have condemned all undocumented migrants to the same legal treatment as the al-Qaida architects of 9/11.

The author of A Warning shot to public notice in September 2018, when he or she wrote an article in the New York Times. The column presented its author as part of an internal resistance to Trump, trying to frustrate his most extreme ambitions.

In the new book, which the Guardian obtained in advance of publication next week, Anonymous puts flesh on the bones of some such harebrained schemes. The migrant plan, the author writes, stemmed from Trump’s unfounded conviction that unlawful migration across the border with Mexico was “the biggest crisis in American history”.

When his proposed solution of labelling all undocumented migrants “enemy combatants” began to circulate around the administration, it provoked astonishment and mortification, the author writes.

So has Joe Biden decided to ship Haitians to Gitmo while demanding that the base be closed? Anything’s possible, but this seems highly unlikely. Forget about the optics of using Gitmo and instead consider the logistics. Flying in and out of Gitmo — and avoiding Cuban airspace — is no joke, and capacity is very limited. Reporters and attorneys who have to make that journey can attest to that chapter and verse. Gitmo was handy for offloading migrants from ships, not airplanes. If DHS starts loading Haitian migrants into air transports, why not just go all the way to Port-au-Prince? If they want a contractor with Haitian Creole capability, it’s almost certainly to deal with at-sea interdictions, which is still a risk considering the disastrous situation in Haiti.

In other words, DHS is likely telling the truth, but it appears that it’s only in this case. If DHS was more transparent — and more competent — perhaps no one would have noticed this ad, or would have immediately connected to the sea-interdiction programs that are still in place. And this is yet another data point in what appears to be a shift in media coverage, where national outlets have suddenly stopped providing Biden with the benefit of the doubt and political cover, at least on the border crisis.

But then we wouldn’t have gotten this delicious graphic, either. Why not have a little fun with this?