Obama to Deport Immigrants to Die in Haitian Jails

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The Obama administration announced last month its intention to resume deportations in mid-January of certain Haitian immigrants convicted of crimes in the U.S. Some of those likely to deported have lived in the U.S. for decades and will be permanently separated from U.S. citizen family members. Some had been permanent residents themselves. All will face indefinite imprisonment as criminal deportees by the Haitian government in jails where they may contract cholera or tuberculosis and where the government relies on family members to bring prisoners food and safe drinking water. Furthermore, prisoners in Haiti are at risk of being killed by their own prison guards. A week after the earthquake last year, prison guards in Les Cayes summarily executed prisoners and then tried to cover up the crime.

The U.S. government will be deporting people to their deaths in Haiti--some of these deportees will not survive under these harsh conditions.

Via Jaya Ramji-Nogales, I learned that a group of human rights advocates filed a petition (pdf) last week with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights asking that it prevent the United States from resuming deportations to Haiti. The Commission is an organ of the Organization of American States that can be petitioned to make recommendations to member states to resolve cases of violations of human rights. While the Commission and the associated Inter-American Court of Human Rights lack significant enforcement authority, litigation in these bodies can be a way to pressure member states to more faithfully observe human rights.

For a country like the U.S. which has historically used the rhetoric of human rights both to define its national identity and as a foreign policy tool, being publicly called out for violating human rights should be a source of embarrassment. Ramji-Nogales outlines the specific human rights violations alleged in the petition:

The petition alleges violations of five provisions of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man (sic). The deportation of these Haitians abrogates their right to life given the inhumane prison conditions they will face at home, particularly during the cholera epidemic, which has hit prisons particularly hard. Their removal also breaches their right to freedom from cruel, infamous, or unusual punishments due to the severe lack of medical care and social services in post-earthquake Haiti. The arbitrary detention these criminal deportees will face upon return violates their right to security of person. The petition also argues that the failure of the U.S. immigration system to offer a humanitarian defense to deportation, either by measuring the impact of removal on U.S. citizen family members or assessing the gravity of conditions in their home country violates the Haitians' right to family life and their right to due process and a fair trial.

Ramji-Nogales points out that U.S. petitioners to the Commission must reference the Declaration since the U.S. has refused to ratify the American Convention on Human Rights, a legally binding treaty. The U.S. is joined by Cuba and a handful of other states in refusing to ratify the treaty, again showing the U.S. to be an outlier in its faltering dedication to the protection of human rights. As demonstrated by its resumption of deportations to Haiti, the U.S.'s commitment to observing human rights in practice does not match its rhetoric.

If you disagree with the Obama administration's decision to send these Haitians to their death, please sign this petition at change.org asking ICE to suspend these deportations.


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This page contains a single entry by David Bennion published on January 9, 2011 11:14 PM.

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