Prepared remarks by Jake Johnston to Congresswoman Frederica S. Wilson’s forum on COVID-19 and ICE’s deportation of detainees to Haiti

First, I want to thank Congresswoman Wilson for convening this forum and for her leadership on this issue. The introduction of legislation mandating a halt to these deportations is a concrete and necessary step. I’d also like to thank all the members present here today for prioritizing this necessary discussion.

On Tuesday, May 26, the Trump administration deported 30 Haitians. It was the eighth deportation flight to Haiti since early February. Though the US has pledged to conduct preflight testing of all deportees, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is utilizing a 15-minute rapid test that is highly unreliable. Tuesday’s flight included at least eight people who had tested positive in recent weeks, and one individual who was experiencing symptoms the night before his deportation. Even if testing were improved, the possibility of false negatives makes it impossible to confidently deport only people who do not present a potential risk to public health. The pandemic is unprecedented; the measures to reduce its spread must be as well.

Haiti is not the only country that has received deportation flights from the United States during the global pandemic. Since March 13, ICE has made at least 135 deportation flights to 13 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. Deportees have later tested positive in Guatemala, Jamaica, Mexico, Colombia, and Haiti. In Guatemala, the government has identified more than 100 COVID-19 cases among those deported. Continue reading

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