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U.S. threatens to deport thousands of Haitians

By Saeed Shabazz
Staff Writer | Last updated: Apr 20, 2009 - 2:58:51 PM

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Vessel carrying Haitian immigrants is approached by U.S. Coast Guard. Photo: MGN Online
UNITED NATIONS (FinalCall.com) - An independent human rights expert, the special envoy of the UN secretary-general to Haiti, the NAACP, and a plethora of activists say this is not a good time for the Department of Homeland Security to move on a plan to deport approximately 30,000 Haitians living in the United States.

UN envoy Hedi Annabi noted four back-to-back storms that ravaged the nation from August to mid-September last year had “comprehensively destroyed what little infrastructure there was” and it is time again for hurricane season.

“The U.S. must continue to provide assistance to all undocumented Haitian migrants living in the U.S. until the situation has improved in their homeland,” said Michael Forst, a Geneva-based human rights expert.

The NAACP said “repatriating Haitians exposes them to dangerous conditions.” The civil rights organization has sent a letter to President Barack Obama “strongly urging” him to grant Temporary Protective Status to Haitian refugees.

TPS was established in 1990 and allows nationals whose countries are involved in armed conflict, or who face public safety and political issues, to stay temporarily in the U.S. without fear of deportation. Those registered under TPS are allowed to work and are required to pay taxes, but are not eligible for food stamps or welfare.

The administration recently granted TPS to Liberians. TPS has also been extended in the past to immigrants from El Salvador victimized by an earthquake in 2001 and, in 1999, Hondurans and Nicaraguans fleeing from the ravages of Hurricane Mitch were allowed to seek shelter in the United States.

There has to be an atmosphere of fairness, argued Ron Daniels, founder of the Institute of the Black World 21st Century. “But the bottom line is it is time for the Obama administration to end what can viewed as a racist policy towards Haitians,” Mr. Daniels told The Final Call.

Florida Democrat Alcee Hastings has authored H.R. 144, a bill that would make Haitian nationals already living in the U.S. eligible for TPS. The bill also advocates for legislation that would stop the interdiction and return of Haitian refugees, unlike Cuban refugees who are allowed to enter the country.

“Congressman Hastings had a very informative meeting with DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano regarding issues related to Haitian immigrants. It is my understanding that the Secretary Napolitano would be presenting the congressman's concerns to the White House, however we have not yet received word on any decision on this matter,” said Lale Mamaux, a press aide to Rep. Hastings, told The Final Call in an e-mail message.

Mr. Daniels said it is important that organizations such as the NAACP and the Congressional Black Caucus are speaking out on the issue of deporting Haitians and are doing something about it. The president has so much on his plate, Haiti might otherwise slip through the cracks, he warned.

“Haiti and the status of Haitians living in the U.S. has and continues to be one of the top foreign policy concerns of the members of the Congressional Black Caucus,” said J. Joni Palmer, communication director of the CBC. In an e-mail message, Mr. Palmer stated that “two weeks ago members of the CBC discussed issues related to Haiti during a special session of the House of Representatives dedicated to international issues. The CBC will continue monitoring these issues and will work with the administration,” Mr. Palmer said.

In the meantime, according to a press representative of Dept. of Homeland Security, the deportation of Haitians continues. “A federal judge has ruled that the 30,000 Haitians that may be here illegally can and must be deported,” the spokesperson told The Final Call. She said that in the past three months 53 Haitians have been deported, with another 612 already in custody for deportation.

“It is the law and President Obama being a lawyer knows the dangers of stretching the law, even if he feels that it may be unfair,” said Calherbe Monel, of the Virginia Beach-based Christians United for Haiti. He said people are fighting the issue of Haitian deportation in the wrong way.

“H.R. 144 may slow down the process, but we really need to go back to Congress to address this as a national immigration issue, not just as a Haitian issue. Bring forward all of the unfair laws and change them for all immigrants,” Mr. Monel argued.

Bill Fletcher Jr., executive editor of BlackCommentator.com and former head of the TransAfrica Forum, offered a blunt assessment: “By and large Congress could give a damn about Haitians, who must be seen as victims of U.S. imperialism.”

Related link:

Haiti represents more than chronic poverty (FCN, 10-23-2006)

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