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MADRE Signs on to Letter Urging Halt to Haiti Deportations

Posted on: Friday, July 15, 2011

Keywords: Haiti, Latin American and Caribbean

In January and April of this year, MADRE signed on to a petition calling on the US government to halt deportations to Haiti until conditions in the country had significantly improved. Despite these efforts, deportations continue. Scores of Haitians are being sent to a country in which a deadly cholera epidemic continues to spread. More information is in the letter below, which was drafted by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). To download the letter in full, click here

The Honorable Janet Napolitano, Secretary of Homeland Security
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Washington, DC 20528
July 15, 2011

Re: Deportations to Haiti

Dear Secretary Napolitano:

We, the undersigned non-governmental organizations (NGOs), write to request an immediate halt to U.S. deportations to Haiti unless and until conditions in Haiti have significantly improved and the U.S. government can ensure that removals are conducted in a manner that is safe, humane, and consistent with international law.

On June 9, 2011, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees issued a joint return advisory specifically instructing governments to “refrain from conducting returns to Haiti” in light of the “existing protection gaps and unmet basic humanitarian needs” that have persisted since the January 2010 earthquake. Moreover, when countries elect to deport Haitian nationals, and are not barred from doing so by international law, they must at least “refrain from returning to Haiti persons with special protection needs,” including individuals with disabilities or severe medical conditions, or individuals with family ties in the sending country.

The U.S. has ignored this advisory. Indeed, on July 12, 2011, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) deported an undisclosed number of individuals to Haiti, bringing the total number of Haitians removed since January 2011 to at least 75. Moreover, although DHS’s official policy purports to limit removals to dangerous individuals with “significant criminal records,” and requires DHS to consider individual equities in effectuating removal, DHS continues to have no procedure to assess whether Haitian nationals have special protection needs that warrant the deprioritization of their deportation. Nor has DHS been willing to provide NGOs with the information they would need to assist individual Haitians in presenting their equities for consideration. As a result, DHS has already removed several Haitian nationals with minor criminal convictions, family ties in the United States, medical conditions that cannot be adequately treated in Haiti, and other equities in disregard of the joint advisory of the UNHCR.

The consequences of the U.S. deportation policy are dire. Already the cholera outbreak in Haiti has sickened a quarter of a million Haitians and killed more than 5,300 people, and, according to recent epidemiological studies, could infect around 780,000 Haitians and kill more than 11,000 people before the end of this year. Deportees are particularly vulnerable to infection because, as the Administration is aware, individuals with criminal records are routinely detained in police station holding cells or prisons with abysmal conditions upon arrival. Indeed, at least one Haitian deportee died in detention from cholera-like symptoms in January of this year, and several other deportees have become ill with cholera-like symptoms as well.

The harmful implications of these deportations have not gone unnoticed. A recent report by the U.N. Independent Expert on the Situation of Human Rights in Haiti emphasized the human rights concerns raised by resuming deportations in the midst of Haiti’s public health crisis, including the health problems linked to the cholera epidemic in Haitian prisons. Moreover, in February and May 2011, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) granted precautionary measures to 38 named Haitian nationals facing deportation from the U.S. The IACHR urged the U.S. government to suspend its deportations until (1) Haiti can guarantee that detention conditions and access to medical treatment in custody comport with the applicable minimal standards, and (2) the United States can demonstrate meaningful procedures that adequately take family ties into account in deportation determinations. There is no indication that the U.S. has complied with these recommendations.

In the meantime, a significant number of Haitian nationals who are post-final order of removal were first detained by ICE in December 2010, when ICE decided to resume deportations to Haiti. These individuals have now been detained beyond the 6-month detention period permissible under Zadvydas v. Davis, resulting in an untenable detention situation in many U.S. jails and detention facilities.

Given the significant human rights concerns raised by the renewed deportations to Haiti, and the absence of adequate procedures for assessing the equities of potential deportees, we urge DHS to immediately:

  • Halt all deportations to Haiti, grant deferred action to all Haitian nationals facing deportation, and release Haitian nationals facing deportation from detention on reasonable conditions of supervision until such time as conditions in Haiti have adequately changed and removals can be safely effectuated;
  • Release information to advocates on where Haitian nationals facing deportation are being detained ;
  • Ensure that Haitian nationals facing removal are not arrested, detained and transferred away from family and legal support and that they are afforded meaningful access to legal assistance; and
  • Adopt a Haitian Family Reunification Parole Program, providing immediate parole to Haitians whose visa petitions to the U.S. have already been approved, which is widely viewed as the most significant, intelligent, and efficient form of assistance the U.S. could give to Haiti at this time.

We urge you to adopt the above recommendations, and we look forward to your prompt response on this urgent matter.

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