The advocacy groups write that Haiti still hadn’t recuperated from 2010’s earthquake when the nation was again rocked on Aug. 14. “As we know from the 2010 earthquake that took approximately 200,000 lives, destroyed much of Port-au-Prince, and from which Haiti has still not fully recovered, it will take years for Haitians to recover from the earthquake,” the groups said. Yet dozens of deportation flights were approved in recent months, including following the killing of President Jovenel Moïse in July.
“Earlier this month, two deportation flights left Texas for Haiti, returning approximately 130 individuals, including several children under the age of two-years old, just weeks after President Moïse’s assassination,” the groups said. “Since February 1, 2021, the administration sent at least 37 deportation flights to Haiti, even as your officials acknowledged internally that those being deported ‘may face harm’ on return and the COVID-19 pandemic raged.”
The administration has acknowledged this danger by redesignating Haiti for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) this year. Officials also carried out an additional expansion of TPS following Moïse’s death. Advocates sought further relief following August’s earthquake, but were denied by Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, the Miami Herald reported. In their letter, advocates again called on the administration to open up more avenues of relief for Haitian asylum-seekers, to expedite the release of Haitians from detention facilities, and to halt deportations, citing past actions by the federal government.
“Starting on January 13, 2010, the day after the earthquake, the U.S. government halted all deportations to Haiti for about a year or longer,” the groups said. “Removals were temporarily halted again in October 2016 after Hurricane Matthew’s devastation. The Biden administration should now follow suit, prioritize humanitarian relief over enforcement, and instruct ICE to immediately suspend deportations and expulsions indefinitely.”
The federal government has taken this kind of action to protect Haitians before, and it should do so again. “While Haiti’s redesignation for TPS will help promote the nation’s recovery and stability by preserving and increasing the flow of remittances to Haiti, deporting families to Haiti will only impede recovery,” the organizations continued. “It will also severely undermine the administration’s promise to build a fairer and more inclusive immigration and asylum system for all.”