U.S. Resumes Deportations to Haiti

January 26, 2011 12:00 am

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ACLU, Rep. Wilson Calls Decision by the Obama Administration a Setback and a Violation of U.S. Human Rights Obligations

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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, the ACLU of Florida and Congresswoman Frederica Wilson (D-Miami) called on the Obama administration to suspend the deportations until their safety and freedom can be guaranteed.

“Now is not the time to deport Haitian nationals back to their home country,” said Rep. Frederica Wilson, who represents Little Haiti and much of South Florida’s Haitian American community in Congress. “Current political instability, widespread human rights abuses, and the cholera outbreak make conditions on the ground too risky for Haitians to return safely. I urge the Administration to do the right thing and halt deportations at this time.”

The ACLU and Congresswoman Wilson urged the Obama administration in December 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 the 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.”

The ACLU’s letter is available online at: www.aclufl.org/pdfs/HaitianLetter-2010-12-29.pdf

About the ACLU of Florida
The ACLU of Florida is freedom’s watchdog, working daily in the courts, legislatures and communities to defend individual rights and personal freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. For additional information, visit our web site at: www.aclufl.org.

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