Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

Haitians Facing Deportation Seek Special Visa

Daniela Gerson, Staff Reporter, The New York Sun
January 20, 2006Haitians Facing Deportation Seek Special Visa

In an attempt to circumvent the Bush administration, lawyers representing Haitians facing deportation filed motions yesterday asking courts across the country to stop removals to that country because of its deteriorating human rights conditions.

The Haitian government requested temporary protected status for its residents in America more than a year ago, possibly affecting thousands of Haitians living in this country illegally. This special visa, which the Department of Homeland Security grants to citizens of undergoing extraordinary civil strife, armed conflict, or natural disasters, would allow Haitians living illegally in America to temporarily work until the situation improves in Haiti.

“At this time we do not feel that Haiti warrants TPS based on the narrow criteria provided by Congress,” a spokesman for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Dan Kane, told The New York Sun.

Seven countries – Burundi, Liberia, Sudan, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, and Somalia – currently have TPS. However, the administration is planning to eliminate the Central American countries from the plan, according to a Miami Herald report that cites administration sources.

The Department of Homeland Security sent back 1,002 Haitian immigrants to the strife-plagued nation last year. “They go back to the possibility of death, the certainty that they will be in danger,” a lawyer representing Haitian immigrants in New York, Maggy Duteau, said. Moreover, she said, their deportation would be detrimental to family members in Haiti who depend on dollars earned in America for support, as well as to dependents left behind in America. She said she hopes yesterday’s legal action will send a message that “there is a problem, a problem that is not being addressed.”

The motions filed in immigration courts across the country take a case-by-case approach in attempting to enable Haitian immigrants to prolong their stay in America, asking judges to close each case due to “ongoing chaos” and “bloody political conflict.” While individual motions are not uncommon, such an umbrella action is. A Philadelphia immigration lawyer who wrote the motion, Thomas Griffin, estimated that more than 100 motions were filed yesterday and said 200 to 300 lawyers have contacted him to voice interest in participating.

The motions go further than TPS by also asking for stays on the deportations of criminals. Last year, the Department of Homeland Security deported 581 Haitians who were convicted of crimes in America. For criminal deportees, the situation is particularly dire in Haiti, where, after already having served their prison time in America, they frequently are held indefinitely upon arrival and subject to starvation, the director of the Haitian advocacy group Alternative Change, Michelle Karshan, said.

The Haitian ambassador to America, Raymond Joseph, said the criminal deportees are bringing more problems to a country that cannot cope with an influx of criminals. “I think it makes for a hardship for a government, particularly for a government that is going through some difficult problems with security,” Mr. Joseph said of the criminal deportees. Despite supporting the request to halt deportations of all types, Mr. Joseph said Haiti, with the exception of a slum near the capital, is safe.

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© Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company

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