by Sue Weishar, Ph.D.
Despite vigorous protestations from human rights and immigrant advocacy groups across the country, the U.S. government resumed deportations to Haiti on Friday, April 15. At approximately 10 AM that morning 19 Haitians who had been held in detention centers in Louisiana since early December, 2010, were put on a flight to Port-au-Prince. On January 20, 2011, the U.S. conducted the first deportations to Haiti since the January 2010 massive earthquake when it sent back 27 detainees, who were subsequently detained in Haiti in filthy police sub-stations holding cells without food, medical care, toilet facilities, or clean water. Less than 10 days after the January flight one of the detainees, Wildrick Guerrier, was dead from cholera-like symptoms.
The U.S. government continues to claim that many of the Haitians it is detaining in Louisiana have serious convictions. But an analysis by the Jesuit Social Research Institute (JSRI) of 52 intake forms obtained during an intake session at the Tensas Parish Detention Center organized by the Loyola University New Orleans Stuart H. Smith Law Clinic and Center for Social Justice on December 21, 2010, found that 58 percent of the Haitians screened were convicted of only non-violent crimes, and that 19 percent had been living crime-free in their respective communities for more than five years before being detained.
ICE has indicated that it plans to deport Haitian detainees once a month throughout the rest of 2011. The flights leave from a government airport near Alexandria, Louisiana.
Please see the April 15, 2011 statement of our colleagues at Jesuit Refugee Service USA. In addition, please see the February 7 joint statement and letter of the chairman of the Migration Committee of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops and the chairman of Catholic Relief Services.
Below, please see an April 14, 2011, press release on the resumed deportations from the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center, which, along with the Loyola University New Orleans law clinic and other advocates, had filed a Request for Precautionary Measures with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to stop the deportations.
Despite a national outcry stemming from the January 20, 2011, deportation of 27 detainees to Haiti, which resulted in the death of 34-year-old Wildrick Guerrier, the Obama Administration recently made a decision to resume deportations to Haiti. Haitian deportees risk a death sentence from cholera due to unhygienic conditions in Haiti's inhumane and overcrowded police station holding cells, where detainees routinely are jailed. The conditions in these jails include severe overcrowding, filth, and a lack of clean water or medical care. Wildrick Guerrier became deathly ill in just such a jail cell and, after experiencing extreme diarrhea and vomiting, died on January 29, 2011.
The Obama Administration has yet to provide relief to many of Haiti's earthquake victims who were evacuated to the United States by U.S. Forces after the quake or who came to the United States with tourist or other visas seeking a temporary reprieve. The administration also has been unresponsive despite enormous editorial and bi-partisan congressional support to calls for a Haitian Family Reunification Parole Program similar to the Cuban Family Parole Program .
Regarding the deportations, Caroline Bettinger Lopez, Associate Professor of the Human Rights Clinic at University of Miama School of Law, stated: "The right to life should not be selectively applied depending on one's citizenship status or a prior bad act. The U.S. government has a basic obligation not to deport anyone to death. Our country must live up to its human rights commitments and immediately halt any and all deportations to Haiti".
"Wildrick T.Guerrier's death was enough of a tragedy," said Susana Barciela, Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center's Policy Director. "Resuming deportations to Haiti not only risks more deaths but will burden a Haiti still reeling to find food, jobs and shelter for earthquake survivors."
Jean Robert Lafortune added: "Why is the Obama administration continuing the double standard and discrimination of the Bush era? Aren't Haitians deserving human beings?" "A civilized nation does not and should not deport anyone to a possible death sentence from cholera" continued Steve Forester of the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti. Family members of the detainees will be there to ask the same questions.
For information: Please call Marleine Bastien at (305) 756-8050, Carrie Bettinger-Lopez at (305) 281-9856, or Beatriz Carta-Wagman at (305) 776-2248
Supporting Organizations: FIAC, FANM, HAGC, Alternative Chance, UM Human Rights Clinic, UM Immigration Clinic, American Friends Service Committee, Center for Constitutional Rights, Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti, Haiti Solidarity, Jobs With Justice
Office Location: Mercy Hall, Room 306 | Mailing Address: 6363 St. Charles Avenue, Box 94 New Orleans, LA 70118