Some U.S. lawmakers and immigration advocates are expressing outrage at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s decision to continue deportations to Haiti in the midst of the accelerating COVID-19 global pandemic, saying the decision “‘presents an unacceptable public health risk to both deportees on board and the citizens of Haiti.”
“This is so wrong,” Rep. Andy Levin, a Michigan Democrat tweeted. He noted that the State Department’s own Level 4 travel warning for Haiti, issued weeks before the global one, warned, “Emergency response, including ambulance service, is limited or non-existent.” If this leads to more cases, #Haiti isn’t prepared to respond & our whole region remains at risk.”
Immigration lawyers and advocates say at least 14 Haitian nationals are scheduled to board a deportation flight from Alexandria, Louisiana, to Port-au-Prince Tuesday. Among the passengers is a detainee who had been exposed to the coronavirus while in immigration lockup at two different facilities.TAKE A BREAK
The time of the flight was unknown, and late Monday members of Congress were mobilizing to try and halt it after being contacted by lawyers and prominent health and human rights groups working in Haiti, including Partners In Health and the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti. Some were making phone calls to immigration officials in the Trump administration, while others were firing off letters to both the Department of Homeland Security and the White House.
Congressional aides told immigration advocates that although Haiti has stopped commercial flights, Tuesday’s flight is a chartered plane using appropriated funds and is therefore still allowed under Haiti’s moratorium on inbound flights. Moreover, it is their understanding that Haitian President Jovenel Moïse authorized the deportation flight.
Attorney Ira Alkalay, who represents the detainee, whom the Miami Herald has agreed not to name, said his client was exposed to COVID-19 while in at least two detention centers — Bristol County Jail in Massachusetts, where a staffer tested positive, and at Strafford County Jail in New Hampshire, where a deputy has tested positive for the virus.
“When my client was brought from Bristol to Strafford, he was brought along with a detainee who was sick and feverish and who ultimately disappeared at some point after being seen by medical staff,” Alkalay said.