MIAMI -- The United States resumed the deportation of Haitians on Thursday for the first time since the devastating earthquake that struck the poor Caribbean nation last year.

Barbara Gonzalez, a spokeswoman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said 27 Haitian nationals with criminal records in the United States had been returned to their homeland.

"These are the first removals since they were suspended last year," Gonzalez said in an email response to Reuters, confirming the end of a moratorium on such deportations declared immediately after the January 12, 2010 quake.

"All of those removed were men, who had been previously convicted of a crime in the U.S.," she said.

She announced earlier that the removals were consistent with a policy of removing Haitians in the United States who pose "a threat to public safety."

Gonzalez said those deported included Lyglenson Lemorin, a 35-year-old legal U.S. resident, who was acquitted of all charges in Miami's so-called Liberty City Seven terrorism-conspiracy case in December 2007.

The Obama administration has been quietly moving since late last year to resume deportations of Haitians.

The renewal of the deportations comes as the Western Hemisphere's poorest state is still recovering from the crippling earthquake and grappling with a dispute over presidential election results from November, as well as a cholera epidemic that has killed nearly 4,000 people.

Immigration officials have said previously that they will only deport Haitians who have been convicted of crimes and finished serving their sentences, as part of this year's resumption of forced removals from the United States.

But other Haitians, including non-criminals and those granted a special immigration status known as Temporary Protected Status, could also face removal later this year.

It was not immediately clear how many people in total would be sent back to Haiti this year because of crimes committed in the United States.