Port-au-Prince, Haiti — Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, many governments seem to believe that deporting Haitians back to Haiti is a good idea. Despite the painstakingly slow progress to rebuild the country’s capital, the certain upcoming surge in cholera cases, and the almost 1 million people still internally displaced in the country’s streets, the international community seems unable to see why sending Haitians back to Haiti is not only inhumane at best, but also a catastrophic policy error in human rights.
After the earthquake terrorized the country last January, the Obama administration and most other highly Haitian-populated nations suspended deportations. These entities called a one-year moratorium so that Haiti could recover from the tragedy. Now that the year is up, the tragedy has far from ended, but the deportations have begun again in full force.
President Barack Obama has quickly gone back on his word to, “stand by Haiti until it can stand on its own two feet.” Claiming it just wants to obtain “secure communities,” the Department of Homeland Security announced this past January that it would only deport Haitian criminals with serious prior convictions. Since, 72 have been deported to Haiti, most with minor drug offenses, and most with no ties to Haiti – familial or linguistic. Of those, 26 were deported just last week.
Plans remain to deport 700 Haitians “home” this year alone.
Wildrick Guerrier was deported to Haiti in January. Upon being thrown in a jail covered in feces, vomit, and blood, he began feeling cholera-like symptoms. A few days later he died, leaving his fiancée in Florida behind. The same month, after already serving a two-year prison sentence for cocaine possession, Serge Dorval was deported after spending most his life in the U.S. He arrived to Haiti knowing no one, and lives in a displacement camp. He claims he is sick every day. These Haitians arrive to toilets covered in cockroaches, are called “blanc,” or white tourists by other Haitians, and are discriminated against because of their residency status.
Lawyers like those in Miami Law Clinics have cried out that deportations to these Haitian jails that lack food, water, sanitation, or medical care breaks international law. Organizations claim that increasing the Haitian homeless population through deportations only puts more stress on the reconstruction commission’s already daunting task to rebuild the country. And activists and humanitarian groups plead that sending Haitians back to Haiti in its current conditions is nothing short of a death sentence.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and other human rights organizations met with representatives of Homeland Security and the Department of State in April, imploring them to stop deportations for these reasons immediately. Unfortunately, the government deported another 19 men on April 15 – many of whom are now reportedly ill.
On May 17, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano did make great strides in protecting Haitians. After the earthquake struck, the Department of Homeland Security granted temporary protected status to 48,000 Haitians already living in the U.S. And on the 17th, she extended that status for 18 months. Moreover, she will allow an estimated 10,000 more Haitians who arrived after the earthquake to apply for this status.
While this represents one victory in standing with Haiti during these circumstances, the U.S. still has a long way to go in showing solidarity with Haitians.
Last week, the ACLU and 51 other nongovernmental organizations sent a joint statement to the UN demanding deportations stop. Vince Warren, Executive Director of Center for Constitutional Rights, also works tirelessly to urge U.S. government to stop sending individuals to their deaths.
CCR, along with the University of Miami Immigration and Human Rights Clinics, the Center for Constitutional Rights, Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center, FAMN and Alternative Chance have prepared a petition urging President Obama, Secretary of State Clinton, and Secretary of Homeland Security Napolitano to halt deportations to Haiti. As Warren stresses, “the right to life should not be selectively applied depending on one’s citizenship status or prior bad act.”
Follow Nicole Kreisberg on Twitter at @NicoKrei[Photo By Lee Cohen]