White House says US citizens told not to travel to Haiti, but Americans argue airport, embassy remained open

The evacuation of U.S. citizens from Haiti remains ongoing, with roughly 1,000 Americans looking to flee the extreme gang violence, though many have questioned why the administration did not move to evacuate Americans sooner.

The Port-au-Prince’s Toussaint Louverture International Airport was taken over by armed gangs on March 4 after they first freed thousands of jailed prisoners, many of whom were gang members.

The series of catastrophic incidents occurred while Haiti’s Prime Minister Ariel Henry was away attempting to secure a security deal with Kenya that would ensure the timely deployment of 1,000 police officers to Haiti to help quell the gang violence.

A woman carrying a child runs from an area where gunshots were heard in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on March 20, 2024. (Clarens Siffroy/AFP via Getty Images)


Many have questioned why the Biden administration did not step in sooner to ensure the safe evacuation of Americans who had become stuck in the rapidly deteriorating situation.

White House national security communications adviser JohnKirby pushed back on these questions Wednesday evening, pointing out that the U.S. has long advised Americans not to travel to Haiti.

“I think it’s important to note that we have had a ‘do not travel’ notice and advisory alert to Haiti in place since 2020 precisely because of the ongoing instability caused by the gangs,” Kirby told reporters. “And we’ve been stressing that the United States government cannot guarantee American citizens will all be evacuated given the treacherous situation on the ground.”

“That said, we have informed Americans who are registered with the State Department that we’re exploring various options to help them depart from Port-au-Prince and also from Cap-Haïtien,” he added.

Violence in Haiti continues as gangs wreak havoc in Port-au-Prince in March 2024. (Project Dynamo)

Haitians and Americans alike have become trapped in Port-au-Prince following the gang takeover. The gangs are now believed to control not only 80% of the city, but also the roads and highways that have access points in and out of the capital, Fox News Digital is told by sources in Port-au-Prince.

The State Department began the first round of helicopter evacuations for American citizens Wednesday from the capital to the Dominican Republic, where citizens will then be responsible for organizing their own transport to the States or elsewhere. Another 30 Americans were evacuated on Thursday, according to the State Department.

U.S. missionary MiriamCinotti, 65, who has traveled back and forth to Haiti for more than a decade to provide aid, pushed back on the Biden administration’s argument this week that Americans were told not to be in Haiti.


“I’m an American citizen and America should be concerned where I am and come get me no matter what. You have an embassy here. You have planes fly in here. If it was so bad, don’t let them come,” Cinotti argued. “But don’t do that, because these people need us.

“For someone to say, well I shouldn’t be here,” Cinotti said, referencing the Level 4 travel advisory. “Well, yes I should have been.”

Project Dynamo evacuates American missionary Miriam Cinotti, 65, from southern Haiti, March 2024. (Project Dynamo)

Cinotti, who was stuck in a remote area in the south of Haiti for weeks, detailed the logistical challenges she faced when trying to evacuate the country before she was eventually airlifted out of the country by veteran rescue group Project Dynamo.

“Normally, where Project Dynamo works there’s Americans that are left behind because the embassy is evacuated, the embassy closed, and in effect there is no embassy,”Bryan Stern, who heads up Project Dynamo, said. “That’s not the case here in Haiti. There’s a couple hundred Marines and a whole bunch of State Department folks and all kinds of people sitting at the embassy right now.”

Stern pointed out that his organization truly got up and running with evacuation assists during the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan after the U.S. embassy had shut down and Americans became stranded across the country.

Project Dynamo has also assisted with evacuations in Sudan and in Ukraine, where the U.S. embassy was temporarily closed following Russia’s invasion.

“This is not that,” he said. “There are a lot of Americans with a lot of guns sitting at the embassy right now, and their instructions are ‘Don’t come here.'”

People burn garbage close to the bodies of the dead following an exchange of gunfire between armed gangs in Petion-Ville on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince, Haiti on March 18, 2024. (Guerinault Louis/Anadolu via Getty Images)

“That is a fundamental divergence of logic from a citizenship perspective,” Stern continued. “Yes, it’s been a Level 4 for a long time and yes, the State Department said to leave. But the reality is the airport was open, American air carriers have been coming in here and, as we speak, the embassy exists, it’s not closed.”

“And yet there are Americans in trouble and stuck. That’s an important nuance compared to other places that we’ve worked,” Stern said.

Americans rescued by the Jack Brewer Foundation amid Haiti gang crisis on March 20, 2024. (The Jack Brewer Foundation)

The embassy in Haiti has told Americans looking to leave to completethecrisis intake formso the State Department can arrange for their evacuation.

Other groups like Project Dynamo and the Jack Brewer Foundation are also organizing evacuations from Port-au-Prince and other areas across Haiti.

“It remains a challenging environment,” Kirby told reporters, noting that the Biden administration is watching the events in Haiti “very closely.”

“The violence has been increasing, not decreasing, as well as the instability,” he said.

Caitlin McFall is a Reporter at Fox News Digital covering Politics, U.S. and World news.

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