MIAMI – Following reports that the U.S. government resumed the deportation of some Haitians for the first time since a catastrophic earthquake struck Haiti last January, the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Florida called on the Obama administration to suspend the deportations until their safety and freedom can be guaranteed. The ACLU and Congresswoman Frederica S. Wilson sent the Obama administration a letter in December urging them to continue the suspension of deportation of Haitians in light of pressing human rights and humanitarian concerns and the raging cholera epidemic that has taken hold in that country.
“By deporting people to Haiti, which is in the midst of a raging cholera epidemic, the U.S. government is violating important human rights obligations to protect individuals from being returned to places where their lives or freedoms could be threatened,” said Howard Simon, Executive Director of the ACLU of Florida. “Our government should not engage in the forced removal of people to any country where they would be subject to persecution or inhumane treatment.”
The Department of Homeland Security has not responded to the ACLU’s letter or issued any written guidelines on the resumption of deportations to Haiti, despite numerous repeated requests by human rights advocates. Instead, department officials have stated that the U.S. government will consider for removal any Haitian who does not qualify for Temporary Protected Status. The U.S. government will initially deport individuals with final removal orders and criminal convictions who have completed their sentences, even for nonviolent misdemeanors. Priority will be given to those Haitians with "serious offenses," a term which the administration has not defined.
“Current conditions in Haiti are simply too dangerous for the U.S. to force people to return there now. By resuming Haitian deportations, this administration will not only jeopardize the lives and safety of Haitian deportees, but will also violate international human rights and refugee laws,” said Joanne Lin, legislative counsel for the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “Without significant human rights improvements in Haiti, these deportations will compound a catastrophic public health and humanitarian crisis in one of the poorest countries in the world.”