As 3 deportees to Haiti and 75 Deportees to Guatemala Test Positive for Coronavirus, 164 Organizations from the U.S. and Haiti Declare Deportations to be Trump’s Cruel, and Usual, Punishment of Haitians

San Diego, California, April 20, 2020 – Today 164 human rights organizations, immigrants’ rights organizations, faith-based groups and academic institutions across the United States and Haiti submitted a letter to the Trump Administration, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) denouncing the deportation of 61 Haitians on April 7, 2020, and urging them to halt deportations to Haiti. The letter comes on the eve of rumors of a deportation flight bound for Haiti scheduled for as early as April 21, 2020. 

Signatories of the letter were “deeply concerned that all detainees in ICE detention centers have a high risk of exposure to coronavirus.” Deportees are not tested for coronavirus in the U.S. before being deported, and sources indicate that some of the Haitians deported on April 7 were quarantined in Haiti, but none of them were tested.

These concerns were amplified with the report last week that three deportees to Haiti and 75 deportees to Guatemala tested positive for coronavirus. With 215 confirmed cases in Guatemala, the U.S. flights alone make up 35 percent of the confirmed cases in the entire country.  The U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) has sent a team to Guatemala to investigate further.  Pending outcome of the CDC’s investigation in Guatemala, all deportation flights should be suspended. 

Haiti, with only 47 reported coronavirus cases and three deaths, is unprepared to manage an influx of new cases. As stated in the organizational letter, “Haiti’s fragile government, almost non-existent healthcare system and close, [and] impoverished living conditions would make it challenging to contain and treat a massive surge of COVID-19 cases.” The letter points out that “as a result of international policy and government inaction, Haiti has only 39 physicians to manage COVID-19, 124 ICU beds and the capacity to ventilate 62 people in a country of 11 million people.”

The letter states that President Donald Trump promised to be a champion for Haitian-Americans, but has disregarded their rights and dignity.  He notoriously referred to Haiti as a sh*ithole country in 2018, and terminated Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Haitians despite evidence from his own State Department that Haiti was unprepared to receive deportees due to a severe housing shortage and public health crisis following the 2010 earthquake, Hurricane Matthew and a cholera epidemic brought by United Nations peacekeeping soldiers.  

In the words of The Miami Herald Editorial Board, “Deportations despite coronavirus is Trump’s cruel, and usual, punishment of Haitians.” The signatories urged the Trump Administration to immediately take the following actions:

  • Halt all deportations of Haitian Nationals back to Haiti;
  • Release immigrants from detention maximizing use of humanitarian parole, release on recognizance, and where necessary, community-based alternatives to detention, following medical screening and in a manner consistent with public health protocols on COVID-19;
  • Coordinate with local groups to ensure housing and transportation upon release, and avoid holding asylum seekers in enclosed or densely populated spaces.

Media Contact: Nicole Phillips, Legal Director, Haitian Bridge Alliance, [email protected], (510) 715-2855 (English, French, Kreyòl)