Using science and medicine to stop human rights violations
Haitian Deportations Violate Human Rights
When human rights advocates talk about providing humanitarian protection to vulnerable immigrants, they are usually concerned with threats to the health and well-being posed by other humans, whether they are security forces, gang members, or abusive spouses. Persecution by other people, however, is not the only source of the danger facing immigrants in their home countries.Witness the case of Wildrick Guerrier. Mr. Guerrier came to the US from Haiti in 1993 as a teenager, and was a legal permanent resident, or green card holder. He helped raise two younger brothers, and was a father figure to his US resident fianc?e’s son. He was ordered deported last year, however, after sustaining a conviction related to his possession of a firearm while working as a private security guard.Following the devastating Haitian earthquake last year, the US government quickly recognized that it would be cruel to return Haitians in the US to the dangerous conditions prevailing in their homeland. Lack of basic necessities like food, clean water, and shelter, and outbreaks of disease were and continue to be rampant. The US not only made temporary immigration status available to Haitians present in our country on the date of the earthquake (so that none would be forced to return home), the government also suspended deportations for those whose immigration court cases had already concluded.Over the past year, this moratorium on Haitian deportations was maintained due to ongoing concerns about conditions in Haiti. The environment remains perilous to this day. More than one million Haitians still lack housing; there is an alarming rise in reports of rape, domestic violence, and political violence; and the cholera epidemic has killed 4,000 people and is expected to claim thousands more victims. Nonetheless, despite warnings and protests from experts, NGOs, and Haitians, the US announced in December that it would soon restart deportations to Haiti.From his cell in a Louisiana detention center, Mr. Guerrier participated in a six-day hunger strike in opposition to this decision. He and several fellow Haitians made a request to immigration officials that they be deported to any country other than Haiti, because, in their own words, “Being removed to Haiti would amount to a death sentence…What have we done as a Haitian people to be sentenced to death?”Heedless of his pleas, the US deported Mr. Guerrier and 26 other Haitians on January 20, 2011. Upon arrival, the deportees were incarcerated in a dismal and dirty jail in accordance with the standard Haitian policy of locking up deportees with US criminal records. Mr. Guerrier quickly fell ill, and less than two weeks after his deportation, died of an apparent case of cholera. Another one of this first group of 27 deportees is also now suffering from cholera-like symptoms.Delivering a man to a foreseeable death due to disease is no less a tragedy and human rights abuse than delivering him to a foreseeable death at the hands of state police or other human persecutors. Wildrick Guerrier’s very avoidable death reminds us how important it is to hold our government accountable for providing sanctuary to people who face medical as well as human threats.You can ask the government to reinstate its temporary suspension of deportations to Haiti by signing this online petition created by the Jesuit Refugee Service.Update: On February 4, 2011, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) added its voice to those urging the US to reconsider its decision to restart deportations to Haiti. The IACHR cited its concern that deportees to Haiti would be incarcerated in detention centers that are overcrowded and lack safe drinking water, food, adequate medical services, and sanitation. The US should not send deportees to Haiti, the Commission found, until Haiti can guarantee that "detention conditions and access to medical care comply with...minimum standards."