For Immediate Release
Rights Groups Denounce U.S. Decision to Resume Deportations to Haiti Amid Cholera Outbreak and Worsening Humanitarian Situation
Deportations for Criminal Convictions Could Violate Obligations Under Convention Against Torture
NEW YORK - The Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) announced on
December 9 that it has lifted the ban on deportations to Haiti for
persons with criminal convictions. Deportations to Haiti have been
stayed since shortly after the January 12, 2010 earthquake devastated
the country. ICE announced it has also ended the policy of releasing
detainees with orders of removal after 90 days, which could result in
their indefinite, unreasonable and arbitrary detention. Haitian
nationals with any criminal record are now likely
subject to continued detention and removal. Last week, 89 Haitian
nationals were arrested and detained with the intent to deport them.
In response, the Center for Constitutional Rights, the Institute
for Justice & Democracy in Haiti, and Alternative Chance issued the
ICE's sudden decision to resume deportations to Haiti is
unconscionable. As that agency is well aware, the situation in Haiti has
not improved and may be even worse now than when the deportations were
halted in the weeks after the devastating earthquake of January 2010.
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 International Committee of the Red Cross in Haiti recently reported
that the cholera epidemic is spreading through Haiti's crowded prisons,
and numerous prisoners have already died. Groups working on the ground
in Haiti have also reported that untreated water is being given to
prisoners, which could further hasten the spread of cholera.
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 (CAT). Under U.S. law codifying CAT, the U.S.
is not permitted to remove anyone when it can be shown that it is"more likely than not that he or she would be tortured if removed to the proposed country of removal." U.S.
courts have previously held that removing people who are HIV-positive
to Haiti where they would be detained in deplorable conditions and
unable to obtain necessary medication could, in some circumstances, be a
violation under U.S. laws implementing CAT.
It is ironic that on the same day ICE announced this new policy,
December 9, 2010, the U.S. State department issued a travel warning
recommending against any non-essential travel to Haiti due to "continued
high crime, the cholera outbreak, frequent disturbances in
Port-au-Prince and in provincial cities, and limited police protection
and access to medical care."
The Center for Constitutional Rights, the Institute for Justice
& Democracy in Haiti, and Alternative Chance call on ICE to halt
roundups and detentions of Haitian nationals in the U.S. and continue
the 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 Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change.