Advocates say the U.S. government is turning a blind eye to the risky conditions deportees face when returned to Haiti.
Almost two years after a massive earthquake shook Haiti, nearly demolishing its capital city, much of the already tenuously placed infrastructure has still not returned to pre-quake conditions and the country is still plagued by public health and security issues. Despite the struggles, the U.S continues to deport some Haitian citizens back to the country, but according to immigration advocates, it is still too early to resume deportations.
In the immediate wake of the January 2010 earthquake, the U.S. government suspended deportations to the country, but resumed them one year later, in Jan. 2011. Since then, advocacy groups and international bodies such as the United Nations have all spoken up against the deportations, citing worsening health and security conditions.
“The crisis has not gone away,” Michel Forst, the United Nations independent expert on the situation of human rights in Haiti, said, according to the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting. “The most important help the international community can give to Haiti is to suspend the forced return of Haitians.”
An investigation by FCIR documented serious health and human rights issues faced by deportees upon arrival in Haiti. According to the center, the Obama administration has failed to adhere to its policy of seeking alternatives to deportation when there are serious medical and humanitarian concerns.
Among the examples the center lists are a deportee who arrived in Haiti suffering from asthma, hypertension, diabetes, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and head trauma, among other ailments. Another example described a mentally ill immigrant whose psychiatric medications were lost by Haitian authorities after his first day in jail.
“What’s distinct about the situation in Haiti is that, unlike in other countries, people are immediately jailed, and the conditions in Haitian jails are condemned universally for violating human rights,” said Rebecca Sharpless of the University of Miami Law School Immigration Clinic, which helps immigrants appeal deportation orders, according to FCIR.
According to the American Civil Liberties Union, deportees in Haiti’s jails face “dungeon-like” conditions and are at risk of contracting cholera, an epidemic that has killed more than 6,600 Haitians and sickened more than 475,000 since it surfaced in October 2010. FCIR reports that one deportee has already died from the illness, just two days after he was released from a Haitian jail.
The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement maintains that only criminals under final orders of removal who “pose a threat to public safety” are being deported to Haiti, however FCIR found that at least three deportees arriving in August and September were only convicted of non-violent drug offenses.
(Photo: Daniel Morel/Getty Images)