By Jacqueline Charles
The deportation of notorious Haitian death squad leader Emmanuel “Toto” Constant from the United States back to Haiti is a question of when, not if.
The Department of Homeland Security, responding to concerns raised by Democratic lawmakers Maxine Waters and Andy Levine about Constant’s pending deportation to his homeland, makes it clear it still intends to remove the human rights violator and is working with the Haitian government to do so.
Citing the Immigration and Nationality Act, Deputy Director Matthew T. Albence said the ability to hold Constant is limited. Constant has been in the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement since he was released from New York State prison in April following a 2008 conviction on mortgage fraud and grand larceny.
“To mitigate the risk of disruption posed by Mr. Constant’s eventual removal to Haiti, DHS is working closely with the U.S. Department of State to ensure the Haitian government is prepared to receive him,” Albence said. “We hope these efforts will encourage the Haitian government to create a plan to handle Mr. Constant’s arrival and to permit justice and accountability to prevail.”
Waters, a longtime Haiti advocate who serves as chair of the House Financial Services Committee, told the Miami Herald she’s not satisfied with the response.
“The judicial system there is more than weak and we were concerned even without including a description of what’s going on there now in some of these vulnerable communities,” Waters said about the joint letter she and Levine sent to DHS and the State Department expressing concerns that the Haitian government could not protect its citizens from Constant.
“That’s why we wrote to our immigration and customs to try and find out exactly what could be done to avoid him going back, particularly quickly,” she added.
The letter does not provide a deadline for the return of Constant, who twice appeared on flight manifests for deportation since his release from prison and was once again spared on a deportation flight that arrived on Tuesday in Port-au-Prince. Behind the scenes, the Haitian government has been seeking to delay his return while also being forced to accept other deportees.
Even without Constant’s return, Haiti’s current government has its hands full. On Wednesday, the head of the National Association of Haitian Magistrates, Justice Jean Wilmer Morin, publicly confirmed that the country’s judges had gone on strike to protest the justice system’s paltry $14 million budget following the publication of President Jovenel Moïse’s budget four months before the end of the fiscal year.
The country’s justices of the peace are also on strike since June 1. They are not only requesting more money, but new courthouses and the renewal of the terms of some judges.
Waters said the new developments are only some of the reasons why she doesn’t have “any faith that the judicial system would be able to contain” Constant.
“He still has people there who were involved with him,” she said, adding that she is concerned about those connections and “what this means further for Haiti, which is in a tough place right now.”
A onetime CIA informant, Constant founded the brutal paramilitary force Front for the Advancement and Progress of Haiti, or FRAPH. The force has been linked to the murders of at least 3,000 political opponents. In 2000, while he lived in the U.S., Constant was sentenced in absentia to life in prison by a Haitian court for his involvement in a 1994 massacre in the northern village of Raboteau in the Artibonite Valley. He was convicted along with 14 others. Continue reading