Haiti Haitian American

Congresswoman Wilson Introduces Bill to Suspend Deportations to Haiti During Pandemic

Haitian Deportation Relief Act
Shutterstock/Gregory Reed

Washington, D.C. – On Monday, Congresswoman Wilson introduced the Haitian Deportation Relief Act, which calls for the suspension of deportations of Haitian nationals until the COVID-19 pandemic has ended in both the United States and Haiti. The legislation also requires the Department of Homeland Security to prioritize migrants whose detention has been deferred and who do not pose a public safety risk for alternatives to detention.

Haiti’s minimal public health infrastructure is at severe risk of being overwhelmed by the COVID-19 pandemic. A recent survey of 76 percent of health facilities in Haiti found only 124 ICU beds and the capacity to ventilate 62 patients in a country of 11 million people. Despite these dire statistics, the Trump administration is pressuring countries to continue accepting deportees. On April 10, the president issued a memo instructing consular officials to stop processing U.S. visas for countries that do not accept repatriated migrants.

“Deporting people to Haiti in the midst of a global pandemic is both inhumane and unsafe. Continuing these flights will likely contribute to the spread of the novel coronavirus in the impoverished nation where many people do not have access to basic health care,” said Congresswoman Wilson. “That is tantamount to a death sentence for Haitians who are living with compromised water and sanitation systems and do not have access to the sanitation measures we’ve undertaken in the United States.”

“ICE continues to deport people in the midst of a global pandemic and risks contributing to the spread of COVID-19. We simply should not be deporting anyone who has been in an affected facility, nor to countries such as Haiti that may struggle to respond to an outbreak,” said Rep. Bennie G. Thompson, chair of the Committee on Homeland Security. “I applaud Representative Wilson for her advocacy, and I am proud to join my colleagues in calling for deportation flights to be halted.”

“The Trump administration’s decision to continue deporting Haitians during a global pandemic is irresponsible and cruel. Even before the pandemic, Haiti faced a significant political and economic crisis,” said Rep. Eliot L. Engel, chair of the Committee on Foreign Affairs. “These deportations are indefensible and must be halted immediately. I commend Representative Wilson for this crucial legislation.”

“Continuing deportations to Haiti during this pandemic is reckless, but deporting individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19, as ICE reportedly plans to do today, is unconscionably cruel. I commend Congresswoman Wilson for her leadership and join her in urging an immediate halt to these deportation flights,” said Rep. Albio Sires, chair of the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere, Civilian Security, and Trade. “These deportations are disastrous for Haiti’s public health, disrespectful to the Haitian people, and counterproductive to U.S. security interests, which are inextricably linked to the health and safety of our neighbors around the world.”

The Florida lawmaker recently led a letter signed by 18 other members of Congress, urging acting DHS Secretary Chad F. Wolf to halt the deportations and has sought support from her colleagues for another letter calling on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to include a provision halting Haiti deportations in the next COVID-19 legislative relief package.

The Haitian Deportation Relief Act is cosponsored by Reps. Bennie G. Thompson (MS-2), Eliot L. Engel (NY-16), Albio Sires (NJ-8), Karen Bass (CA-37), Kathy Castor (FL-14), Yvette D. Clarke (NY-9), Ted Deutch (FL-22), Alcee L. Hastings (FL-20), Barbara Lee (CA-13), Andy Levin (MI-9), James P. McGovern (MA-2), Gregory W. Meeks (NY-5), Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC), Donald M. Payne, Jr. (NJ-10), Ayanna Pressley (MA-7), Jan Schakowsky (IL-9), Darren Soto (FL-9), Nydia M. Velázquez (NY-7), and Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL-23).

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