The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has joined the growing number of voices urging the United States to halt the deportation of Haitians from the United States. In response to an emergency petition for precautionary measures filed by Miami Law's Immigration and Human Rights Clinics and co-counsel on behalf of detained Haitian nationals who face imminent deportation, the IACHR announced late in the day on Friday, February 4, that it was summoning the U.S. to halt the petitioners' deportations.
The IACHR issued these precautionary measures shortly following the death of Wildrick Guerrier, a 34-year-old man who was deported on January 20. Mr. Guerrier suffered from cholera-like symptoms while detained in a Haitian jail and appears to have received no medical attention while detained. He died less than a week-and-a-half after arriving in Haiti. The Human Rights and Immigration Clinics' request to the IACHR, which was filed on January 6, argued that resuming deportations would be inhumane given the unstable conditions of the country and its most recent cholera outbreak.
More than 285 additional organizations and individuals signed a letter in support of the petition that opposed the United States' decision last month to reinitiate deportations to Haiti. The University of Miami School of Law's Human Rights and Immigration Clinics submitted the petition with the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center, the Center for Constitutional Rights, Alternative Chance, and the Loyola Law Clinic and Center for Social Justice. The IACHR is an autonomous body of the Organization of American States whose mission is to protect and promote human rights in the Americas.
"The U.S. Government is violating important human rights obligations," said Caroline Bettinger-Lopez, director of the Human Rights Clinic at the University of Miami School of Law. "These deportations will compound a catastrophic public health and humanitarian crisis in the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere."
Advocacy groups believe 1,000 or more Haitians are pending deportations, which could continue at any time. "The Haitian nationals facing imminent deportation are particularly vulnerable," said Rebecca Sharpless, director of the Immigration Clinic at the University of Miami School of Law. "They face being jailed by Haitian authorities in life-threatening conditions that have worsened since the cholera outbreak." Haitian immigration authorities have a policy of detaining people deported to Haiti who have a criminal record. Before the earthquake, a U.S. court of appeals described the conditions under which Haitian authorities jail deportees are "reminiscent of a slave ship."
Conditions outside Haitian jails have also not improved since the earthquake. The United Nations reports that the cholera outbreak is projected to affect 400,000 people. Miami Herald reports at least one million people are still living beneath tarps and in tents as they wait for reconstruction dollars to take effect.
Farrin Anello, supervising attorney and teaching fellow at the Immigration Clinic, adds that deportations would also break up families as many of the Haitians facing deportation have lived in America most of their lives and have children and other family members who are U.S. citizens.
"While detained in Louisiana, Wildrick Guerrier expressed grave concerns that he had no family in Haiti, that he had not been to Haiti for a very long time, and that he was afraid of what would happen to him in Haiti and of the cholera outbreak," said Rebecca Sharpless, Director of the Immigration Clinic at Miami Law. "He was right to be terrified."