In spite of flaring violence and a massive, ever-growing cholera outbreak, the United States has lifted a ban on deporting Haitians, drawing criticism from human rights groups.


Deportations had been stayed since shortly after the Jan. 12, 2010 earthquake in which an estimated 300,000 died and as many as 1 million were left homeless.

An Oct. 19 cholera outbreak in the country has left 46,749 people in the hospital and 2,193 dead.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) spokeswoman Barbara Gonzalez said Friday that the US expects to begin flying undocumented immigrants with criminal records back to the island nation in January.

In response to the announcement to resume deportations, the Center for Constitutional Rights, the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti, and Alternative Chance released a statement condemning the decision.

"ICE's sudden decision to resume deportations to Haiti is unconscionable," according to the groups. "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."

"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)," the statement noted.

"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."

"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," the groups added.

Homelessness and disease are not the only problems deportees will face if returned to the country.

On Dec. 9, the US State Department issued a travel warning urging Americans not to travel to Haiti due to post-election violence.

"While most kidnappings are financially motivated, some kidnapping victims have been physically abused, sexually assaulted, shot and even killed," a State Department statement said. "No one is immune from kidnapping, regardless of one’s occupation, nationality, race, gender, or age."

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Monday that a US senator's calls for freezing aid to Haiti is "very strong signal that we expect more and we're looking for more."

The CIA's World Factbook notes that Haiti has a wealth of "bauxite, copper, calcium carbonate, gold, marble, hydropower" which could be the "more" that Clinton is looking for.

The full statement from the Center for Constitutional Rights, the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti, and Alternative Chance follows:

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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.

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