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Deportation to Haiti Is Still a Death Sentence

Michael Tan,
Deputy Director,
ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project
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June 16, 2011

Earlier this week, our government deported yet another 26 individuals to Haiti — even though for many, deportation to Haiti remains a likely death sentence. Wildrick T. Guerrier, a man on the first deportation flight in January, died of cholera just nine days after his arrival in Haiti. Mr. Guerrier, a 34-year-old lawful permanent U.S. resident, had lived in the United States for 17 years and left behind his fiancée and her young son, whom he was raising as his own.

Mr. Guerrier’s death is a preview of worse things to come. As the U.S. is well aware, Haiti remains devastated by the massive earthquake that left nearly 300,000 dead and over 1.2 million more displaced and homeless, as well as by a cholera epidemic that could sicken nearly 780,000 and kill over 11,000 before the end of this year.

Nonetheless, since January the U.S. has been deporting certain Haitians with criminal records, even though Haiti continues to jail them in holding centers where cholera runs rampant. Moreover, as highlighted in a recent video by The New York Times, an utter lack of infrastructure, housing, and employment make the deportations unconscionable, especially for Haitians who have lived in the U.S. for most of their lives and have no friends or relatives to help them in Haiti.

Today the ACLU and 51 other nongovernmental organizations submitted a joint statement asking the U.N. Human Rights Council to urge the U.S. and all other countries to suspend deportations to Haiti immediately, until individuals can be returned to Haiti in a safe and humane manner and in accordance with international law. But even then, deporting nations must institute adequate procedures for assessing the family ties and the individual circumstances of potential deportees.

To date, the U.S. government has established no meaningful procedure to choose whom to deport or to ensure their safety. A policy issued by Department of Homeland Security in April purports to limit deportations to persons who pose a danger to the public and deprioritize individuals for removal based on the date and severity of their convictions, family ties, and their individual circumstances. But despite this policy, DHS has deported people with nonviolent and minor crimes, as well as people with serious mental illness and medical conditions.

Our disregard for human rights has not gone unnoticed. The U.N. Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Haiti recently reiterated his concerns, shared by other U.N. agencies, regarding the forced repatriation of Haitian nationals. And the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has called on the U.S. to suspend a group of petitioning individuals’ deportations until Haiti can guarantee minimally adequate detention conditions and access to medical care, and the U.S. establishes procedures that take U.S. family ties into account in deciding whom to deport.

The U.S. should follow these recommendations and stop the deportations to Haiti immediately. We should never deport people if we can’t do so in a way that respects their basic human rights. Deportation should not be a death sentence.

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