Document Type

Article

Publication Date

2015

Abstract

Haiti still reels from the devastating effects of the January 12, 2010 earthquake that killed over 300,000 people, rendered one in seven Haitians homeless, and wreaked $9 billion of damage in a country whose 2009 GDP was only $7 billion. At least 85,000 people still live in internally displaced person camps (IDP camps) and many have moved back into shoddy structures that would not survive another earthquake. The cholera epidemic that struck Haiti in the wake of the earthquake has been characterized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as “the worst cholera outbreak in recent history,” killing at least 8,721 people and sickening over 700,000 in all parts of the country. Medicine, medical care, and mental health care remain in scarce supply and largely unavailable to individuals who are poor, disenfranchised, or live in rural areas. Political instability is widespread. The rebuilding of Haiti proceeds at a glacial pace. Only a fraction of the international aid that was designated to address these humanitarian crises and human rights violations has been allocated and spent, and an even smaller fraction of that aid has helped the people for whom it was intended.

In light of this humanitarian crisis, in January 2010, the United States granted Temporary Protected Status (TPS)—a temporary immigration status—to qualifying Haitian nationals living in the United States who lacked other lawful status. TPS remains in effect today for Haitian beneficiaries. People who have been convicted of two misdemeanors or one felony offense, however, fall outside the scope of TPS protection and can be deported. Over the past five years, the United States has forcibly returned to Haiti approximately 1,500 men and women who are categorically barred from TPS protection on account of their criminal histories. Most of these individuals have significant family ties in the United States and many suffer from serious physical and mental health conditions and illnesses. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has carried out these deportations despite the U.S. Department of State’s admonitions against U.S. citizen travel to Haiti in light of the country’s instability and weak medical facilities, and despite ICE’s knowledge of the acute dangers facing Haitian nationals who are deported from the United States. The result has been utterly devastating for deportees in Haiti and the families they leave behind in the United States.

This report documents the stories of the men and women deported from the United States to post-earthquake Haiti on account of a criminal history. Through extensive fieldwork and research, this report details the experiences of deportees—some of whom refer to themselves as “strangers in a strange land”—and their U.S.-based family members. The report argues that the United States violates the fundamental human rights of Haitian nationals and their family members when it deports them to Haiti without due consideration of the deportees’ individual circumstances and the humanitarian crisis in Haiti. It concludes by making recommendations to the United States, Haiti, and the international community.


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