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Deportations to Haiti Should Be Halted, Say USCCB Migration Committee Chair and Chairman of Catholic Relief Services

February 7, 2011 by

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT:
John Rivera
Catholic Relief Services
(410) 951-7399
john.rivera@crs.org

BALTIMORE, Md., Feb. 7, 2011–In a joint letter to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano February 7, Archbishop Jose H. Gomez, Coadjutor Archbishop of Los Angeles and chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Committee on Migration, and Bishop Gerald Kicanas, Bishop of Tucson and chairman of the Board of Catholic Relief Services, the U.S. bishops’ international humanitarian agency, expressed opposition to the recent resumption of deportations to the nation of Haiti.

“We are disturbed and dismayed over the January 20, 2010, deportation of 27 Haitians, one of whom is reported to have died from cholera. We ask that you cease these deportations indefinitely,” they wrote.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) of DHS announced the resumption of deportations to Haiti December 9th. Since then, about 300 Haitians have been transferred to Louisiana in advance of deportation to that stricken island nation. DHS also announced that it intends to deport 700 Haitians by the end of the year.

Citing the slow recovery from the January 12, 2010 earthquake, the outbreak of cholera, and recent civil unrest, the bishops stated that Haiti is not prepared to receive deportees.

“Now is not the time to resume deportations to Haiti, nor would it be morally or politically appropriate to do so in the foreseeable future,” they wrote. “To continue deportations in the face of such conditions would represent a knowing disregard for the life and dignity of Haitians scheduled for deportation.”

The bishops also argued that resuming deportations could communicate the wrong message to the Haitian people, who are depending upon the United States for long-term support in their effort to recover from the earthquake.

“Moreover, [the resumption of deportations] would signal to a nation struggling to recover from natural disaster that the United States is retreating from its commitment to help Haiti return to health, ” they stated.

The bishops outlined several steps DHS should take to assist Haiti, including a re-designation of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to Haiti so that Haitians who arrived after the earthquake could qualify; the extension of humanitarian parole to family members of Haitians brought to the United States for medical care; and the implementation of a family parole program for 55,000 Haitians with approved family petitions into the United States as they wait for their priority dates to become current.

The bishops argued that the adoption of these measures would ensure the continued flow of remittances to the country and would “send an important signal to the Haitian people that the United States remains committed to their long-term welfare.”

The letter concluded with a special appeal to the DHS Secretary.

“Madam Secretary, your designation of TPS for Haiti immediately after the January 12, 2010, earthquake was an important and well-received humanitarian action. We urge you not to negate that positive action with a resumption of deportations at this time.”

Full text of the letter follows.

February 7, 2011

Honorable Janet Napolitano

Secretary of Homeland Security

U.S. Department of Homeland Security

Washington, D.C. 20528

Dear Madam Secretary:

On behalf of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and its international relief agency, Catholic Relief Services (CRS), we write to express our opposition to the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) recent decision to resume deportations to Haiti. We are disturbed and dismayed over the January 20, 2011, deportation of 27 Haitians, one of whom is reported to have died from cholera. We ask that you cease these deportations indefinitely.

In a December 20, 2010 letter, USCCB expressed to you our concerns about the December 9, 2010, announcement by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) that the Administration had decided to lift a year-long stay on deportations of Haitians to that stricken nation. We also urged that you take further steps to provide immigration relief to Haitians in the United States and to reunite Haitian families impacted by the earthquake.

Despite our expressed concerns and those of other organizations who have worked to help Haiti during this crisis, DHS nonetheless proceeded with deportations, citing public safety concerns and stating that those slated for deportation were offenders who had completed sentences for “serious criminal convictions.”

However, of the 27 already deported and another 300 who await deportation, there are a significant number with low-level, non-violent criminal convictions who had already been released and had been living in the community without incident for years. Others have compelling humanitarian situations, including serious medical conditions, or potential claims for immigration relief.

Moving forward, DHS has stated that it intends to deport 700 Haitians by the end of the year. Yet, a cholera outbreak has killed over 3,600 Haitians and infected more than 400,000. Reconstruction continues at a slow pace, with hundreds of thousands still living in tent cities. And, the ongoing dispute over the November 28, 2010 presidential elections has exacted a significant toll not only on the political apparatus of the country but also on the Haitian psyche, resulting in violent protests. To compound these issues, Haiti’s jails, in which the Haitian government routinely holds deportees and which are notorious for the inhumane treatment of detainees, are now rife with cholera.

Now is not the time to resume deportations to Haiti, nor would it be morally or politically appropriate to do so in the foreseeable future. As you should know, one deportee, Wildrick Guerrier, reportedly has died of cholera contracted in a Haitian jail and another deportee is seriously ill. To continue deportations in the face of such conditions would represent a knowing disregard for the life and dignity of the Haitians scheduled for deportation.

Moreover, it would signal to a nation struggling to recover from natural disaster that the United States is retreating from its commitment to help Haiti return to health. From our experience providing life-saving humanitarian services to the people of Haiti through numerous CRS programs in country, Haiti is not equipped at this time to receive deportees, especially those who may have serious criminal backgrounds.

We reiterate our recommendation that you provide additional immigration relief to Haitians in the United States. This would include: 1) a re-designation of TPS for Haiti so that Haitians who entered after the earthquake may access its benefits; 2) humanitarian parole for immediate family members of Haitians evacuated to the United States for medical purposes after the earthquake; and 3) the implementation of a family reunification parole program that would benefit 55,000 Haitians with approved family petitions into the United States as they wait for their priority dates to become current.

We believe that these measures would alleviate an otherwise inevitable worsening of the social and economic strains on the stricken nation, facilitate the reunification of Haitian families, and ensure that sorely-needed remittances flow to the country. The adoption of these measures would also send an important signal to the Haitian people that the United States remains committed to their long-term welfare.

Madam Secretary, your designation of TPS for Haiti immediately after the January 12, 2010, earthquake was an important and well-received humanitarian action. We urge you not to negate that positive action with a resumption of deportations at this time. Instead, we ask that you cease all deportations to Haiti indefinitely and extend U.S. assistance to Haiti by providing further immigration relief to Haitians, particularly in light of the current public health and political crises plaguing the ailing nation.

Thank you for your consideration of our views.

Most Reverend José H. Gomez

Coadjutor Archbishop of Los Angeles

Chairman, USCCB Committee on Migration

Most Reverend Gerald F. Kicanas

Bishop of Tucson, AZ

Chairman, Catholic Relief Services

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Catholic Relief Services is the official international humanitarian agency of the Catholic community in the United States. The agency provides assistance to people in nearly 100 countries and territories based on need, regardless of race, nationality or creed. For more information, please visit www.crs.org or www.crsespanol.org.

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