Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

Obama under pressure to reverse new deportation policy after Matthew

Two weeks after the United States Department of Homeland Security announced it has resumed deportation of undocumented Haitian immigrants, Haiti was struck by one of the worst humanitarian disasters since the 2010 earthquake. Several US-Haiti affiliates, including IJDH’s Nicole Phillips, are calling on the Obama administration to reverse its decision in the wake of Hurricane Matthew.

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Deportation to a disaster zone: Obama under pressure to stop crackdown on Haitian migrants as Hurricane Matthew wreaks havoc on island

Daniel Denvir, Salon

October 7th, 2016

Flooded street after the passing of Hurricane Matthew in Les Cayes, Haiti. (Picture from original article)


Hurricane Matthew has, as President Barack Obama put it, “hit Haiti with devastating effect,” reportedly leaving at least 283 dead and thousands displaced. This calamity, however, comes just two weeks after the Department of Homeland Security’s announcement that it would resume the regular deportation of Haitians from the United States.

Six years ago the government had granted a respite following the massive January 2010 earthquake, and the new directive puts unauthorized Haitian migrants currently in the country in jeopardy of deportation. More immediately, it has left many migrants facing an uncertain future at the U.S.-Mexico border, where thousands of Haitians have recently made their way from Brazil.

In announcing the resumed deportations on Sept. 22, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, had declared that “the situation in Haiti has improved sufficiently.” That assertion, however dubious at the time, is now in serious doubt. Advocates hope that the hurricane will spur President Obama to reverse course.

“It would make sense that the secretary reconsider his decision,” said Haitian-American Grassroots Coalition’s president, Jean-Robert Lafortune, “based on the devastation of the hurricane.”

Contacted for comment, Department of Homeland Security spokeswoman Marsha Catron told Salon by email that “no further announcements have been made at this time. DHS is monitoring Hurricane Matthew and will assess its impact on current policies as appropriate.”

It’s unclear whether Haitians already in the U.S. have been deported since the new directive was issued. Cheryl Little, executive director of the Miami-based Americans for Immigrant Justice, said her organization represents a number of Haitians who face deportation and she is not aware of any new moves to detain and deport those already present in the States. More than anything, the new policy seems directed at stemming the entry of Haitians streaming up from Brazil to the U.S.-Mexico border. Haitians had flocked to Brazil after the earthquake to seek economic opportunity but that country’s economy is now in a downward spiral.

In the current fiscal year, 4,844 Haitians have so far presented themselves at U.S. ports of entry and been determined inadmissible, the vast majority in the San Diego region, according to Customs and Border Protection. That’s compared to just 795 at this point last year…


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