Democrats in the U.S. House introduced a bill on Monday that would place a moratorium on deportations for the duration of the Covid-19 pandemic—a proposal that arrives amid outrage over an effort by the Trump administration to send immigrants from Haiti back to their home country despite having tested positive for the virus.
"Continuing these flights will likely contribute to the spread of the novel coronavirus in the impoverished nation where many people do not have access to basic healthcare," said Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.), whose Haitian Deportation Relief Act was introduced Monday.
Deporting people to Haiti in the midst of a pandemic is cruel and dangerous. That's why I've introduced the Haitian Deportation Relief Act. Thank you, @RepEliotEngel, @BennieGThompson, and @RepSires for your support!https://t.co/blD2HiytCj
— Rep Frederica Wilson (@RepWilson) May 11, 2020
Wilson's legislation comes just days after a Friday Miami Herald story on efforts by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to knowingly deport at least five Haitians infected with the virus and after the agency reversed its decision.
According to the Miami Herald reporting on Monday:
U.S. immigration authorities did not deport five detainees back to Haiti on Monday who had tested positive for the deadly COVID-19 respiratory disease, Haitian officials have been told.
ICE's decision to not deport the five detainees with Covid-19 comes days after a Miami Herald story detailed how the Department of Homeland Security had planned to deport infected Haitian nationals. The Herald, which had obtained a copy of the flight manifest, confirmed the five detainees' names were on the original deportation flight list.
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ICE's actions, tweeted Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), were tantamount to the agency using deportees in an effort of "actively spreading the coronavirus."
"This should not be hard: halt deportations during this crisis!" said Omar.
ICE removes detainees with coronavirus from deportation flight to Haiti https://t.co/bNQ88Ucgee
— Jacqueline Charles (@Jacquiecharles) May 11, 2020
The Wilson bill calls on the federal government to suspend all deportations to Haiti until the pandemic has run its course in both the U.S. and Haiti in light of the effect on the Caribbean nation's "minimal public health infrastructure" which, it is feared, could be overrun by a surge in Covid-19 cases.
"That is tantamount to a death sentence for Haitians who are living with compromised water and sanitation systems and do not have access to the sanitation measures we've undertaken in the United States," Wilson said.
The Florida congresswoman was joined in her call for action by a number of other lawmakers, including Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.).
"ICE continues to deport people in the midst of a global pandemic and risks contributing to the spread of Covid-19," said Thompson. "We simply should not be deporting anyone who has been in an affected facility, nor to countries such as Haiti that may struggle to respond to an outbreak."