Heartland Alliance's National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) urges President Obama to respect human life and immediately stop the deportation of Haitian nationals.
In January 2010 Haiti suffered a devastating earthquake. In the wake of the disaster, the U.S. government suspended deportations to Haiti due to humanitarian concerns. Just one year later, despite the on-going crisis, the U.S. government has resumed deportations. The same day the Obama administration began Haitian removals, the U.S. Department of State issued a travel warning urging U.S. citizens to avoid traveling to Haiti because of the "critical crime level, cholera outbreak, frequent and violent disturbances in Port-au-Prince and in provincial cities, lack of adequate medical facilities, and limited police protection."
In response to a request for comments on the deportations, NIJC submitted a letter in March to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano condemning the deportation policy, which the administration implemented without input from individuals or organizations knowledgeable of the current human rights conditions on the ground in Haiti.
Contrary to DHS's claims regarding the criminal backgrounds of those they are deporting, many of the Haitians facing deportation have lived lawfully in the United States for years after serving sentences for minor offenses and do not pose any danger to our communities. Many detained Haitians are in remote detention facilities, isolated from family and legal counsel and unable to prepare for their return to Haiti. Sending them back to Haiti now could be a death sentence. Haitian authorities often incarcerate deported men and women upon their return to the country, forcing them to live in despicable and inhumane conditions which currently include a rampant cholera epidemic. A man deported in January died of cholera-like symptoms within weeks of his return to Haiti.
To prevent loss of life and uphold human rights in the United States, the Obama administration must:
- Halt deportations to Haiti
- Assess on a case-by-case basis whether Haitian nationals currently in DHS custody truly pose a threat or whether they should be released
- Improve government transparency and publicly describe the administration's reasoning for resuming deportations to Haiti, including ICE's assessment of conditions for individuals upon their arrival in Haiti
- Engage in a true consultation with critical stakeholders, including individuals and organizations with knowledge of the human rights situation in Haiti
Heartland Alliance's National Immigrant Justice Center is a Chicago-based nongovernmental organization dedicated to ensuring human rights protections and access to justice for all immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers through a unique combination of direct services, policy reform, impact litigation and public education. For more information visit www.immigrantjustice.org.