U.S. Resumes Deportations to Troubled Haiti

Still no word on whether the U.S. will extend the deadline for Temporary Protective Status.

By Jamilah King Jan 24, 2011

Federal immigration authorities made good on their promise to resume deportations of Haitian nationals. Last week the AP reported that 26 Haitians with criminal deportations were sent back to their earthquake-ravaged homeland, despite widespread concerns that the country is ill-equipped to receive them.

After Haiti’s devastating earthquake one year ago, the Obama administration halted deportations to the country by offering Temporary Protective Status (TPS) to Haitians living in the United States. But the deadline to apply for TPS passed on January 18, and while 60,000 Haitians have applied, there’s no telling how many missed the deadline.

That’s left many Haitians currently living in the U.S. with even the smallest criminal convictions at risk for being sent back to the country, and some in the Haitian community are outraged at the government’s apparent lack of compassion.

"I think it’s outrageous and it’s inhumane and very insensitive," Marleine Bastien, executive director of the Haitian Women of Miami, told the AP. "We are outraged, really outraged.

Seth Freed Wessler wrote last week that conditions for deportees are particularly perilous:

Deportees to Haiti are not greeted warmly by the government there. In the past, deported people have been incarcerated upon arrival in jails with serious health and safety problems. Risk of contracting cholera is increased in jails and other health risks in the overcrowded institutions pose serious risks to those locked up there. According to the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, jails in the country have historically failed to provide incarcerated people with meals, instead expecting inmates’ families to bring them food. But for deported people without ties in Haiti, that may prove impossible. One U.S. based legal service provider who said she’s talked with about ten detainees in Louisiana detention centers said that only one had family in Haiti who he could rely on to bring meals.

Barbara Gonzeles, a spokesperson for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, told the AP in a statement that the removals were "consistent with ICE’s priority of removing aliens who pose a threat to public safety."

The Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center, a non-profit law firm, also came out strongly against the deportation.

"Whether or not they have served a criminal sentence, no Haitian should be sent to a cholera-infested jail where they risk death," the organization said in a statement.