An announcement by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement that deportation of some Haitians to their troubled country has been denounced by a number of human rights organizations as “unconscionable.”
The announcement came Friday from ICE spokeswoman Barbara Gonzalez, who said the U.S. expects to begin flying deportees with criminal records back to Haiti in January in coordination with Haiti’s government, the Associated Press reported.
Deportation of Haitians was suspended after the Jan. 12 earthquake that killed hundreds of thousands of Haitians.
The AP report said Gonzalez explained that the agency must deport people with criminal records or release them “if their repatriation is not reasonably foreseeable.”
But advocates and immigration attorneys argue that conditions in Haiti have not improved enough for deportations to resume. They note that a cholera outbreak began in October and the State Department itself issued a travel warning on Dec. 9 for Haiti because of an outbreak of violence over the country’s disputed presidential election.
The Center for Constitutional Rights, the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti, and Alternative Chance are criticizing the plan to lift the ban on deporting Haitians with criminal records.
They issued the following statement:
“The people of Haiti are now in the middle of a worsening cholera outbreak that has spread to the very prisons where those deported may be detained. The practice in Haiti, even before the earthquake, has been to detain many deportees from the United States in holding centers in Haiti with, as U.S. immigration judges have often noted, deplorable, substandard conditions and lack of medical care,” the groups said in a statement.
“Sending Haitian nationals to be detained in facilities deemed deplorable before the earthquake, where exposure to cholera could lead to death is a violation of the U.S. government’s obligations under the Convention Against Torture,” the statement added.
The groups are calling for an end to round-up and detention of Haitians and for a stay on deportations.
“Furthermore, we call on ICE to release more information about this new policy and, specifically, to explain what assessment was conducted of the circumstances in Haiti prior to the change in policy,” the groups said.