Lawyers seek to halt deportations to Haiti
MIAMI – Attorneys for hundreds of Haitian immigrants nationwide on Thursday asked judges to halt deportation proceedings to avoid returning their clients to a country wracked by political turmoil, violence and devastating natural disasters.
“What we are asking the government to do is to temporarily stop the deportations to give Haiti some time recoup, to settle the internal conflicts,” said Ariol Eugene, a Miami attorney who said he would be filing the motion on behalf of 50 clients through next week.
Simultaneous motions were filed in Miami, Boston, Philadelphia, New York and Washington.
Thomas Griffin, a Philadelphia attorney who filed the motion on behalf of three clients, said between 200 and 300 attorneys nationwide have inquired this week about filing the motion for their clients.
The motion also criticized the Department of Homeland Security’s decision not to grant Haitians the “Temporary Protected Status” that allows immigrants fleeing civil strife or natural disasters to remain in the United States.
The protected status has been granted to immigrants from a handful of African and Central American countries.
“All these countries have a temporary halt to deportations because it is immoral to deport anyone to such conditions. Why aren’t Haitians good enough for such basic protections?” said Steve Forester, an attorney and senior policy advocate for Haitian Women of Miami.
The U.S. government is closely monitoring the situation in Haiti, said Dan Kane, a Washington-based spokesman for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
“We don’t feel at this time that Haiti fulfills the very narrow criteria provided by Congress,” Kane said.
More than a dozen national religious and immigrant organizations supported the motion.
“I believe that racism is at the root of this because if there is any country that qualifies for TPS, it is Haiti. We’ve met all the criteria and beyond. We’ve suffered natural disasters, we suffered political disasters and now we have a country at the brink of civil war,” said Marleine Bastien, executive director of Haitian Women of Miami, an immigration advocacy and social services agency.
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