Due to the catastrophic hurricane in Haiti in January of last year, Congress voted to halt deportation of Haitian immigrants, a success that worked very hard to make happen. Last month, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced that it was lifting this halt and that starting next month, Haitians with criminal records will begin to be moved back to Haiti. Approximately 350 Haitians with criminal records have been detained, though the exact number to be deported is unknown. Haitians without criminal records are still safe under their Temporary Protected Status (TPS), though this is set to expire in July.
FCNL is gravely concerned about ICE's decision to send immigrants back to Haiti. The country, devastated by an earthquake a year ago, remains a disaster zone. Violent protests erupted last month in response to election results and a cholera epidemic has infected tens of thousands and killed more than 1,500. More than one million are still homeless. Haitians who are deported to the island due to a criminal record are sometimes incarcerated, and the prison system is wracked with cholera. We fear that sending them back is a death sentence.
ICE stated that it is concerned about having people with serious criminal records at large in our communities. FCNL does not disagree with the importance of keeping our communities safe, but according to our statement of principles, we believe that our immigration policy should support those displaced by conflict, oppression, environmental change, natural disaster, and economic destitution. Moreover, "criminal records" means any conviction, including minor ones, like shoplifting. We worked very hard a year ago to ensure that the U.S. would not be responsible for sending Haitian immigrants into a disaster zone (see here, and here), and it is clear to us now that although a year has passed, the crisis has not abated and sending Haitians home now would be as unconscionable as it was when the earthquake hit.
For more information:
New York Times Topics: Haiti
Open Letter to the President from the AFSC
Opinion Piece from the Huffington Post