Posted on 20 April 2012.
Posted on 17 February 2012.
Duvalier returned to Haiti from exile a year ago. Now, he faces corruption charges, but not charges for alleged human rights abuses. New York is home to one of the largest Haitian populations outside of the country, and the decision isn’t sitting well with the community.
Posted on 05 March 2011.
Jerry Poulard was born in Haiti and moved to New York when he was 14. The now 29-year-old has an American father and says this is where his family is. But he’s not a US citizen and in 2000, he was convicted of robbery. He served 5 years in prison. In 2009, Poulard took a road trip to Canada to visit his wife who lives there.
He didn’t make it past the border. Poulard says he was handcuffed and shackled. “They did a check, they saw that I had a criminal history and that’s when they told me I’m not qualified to be in the country. And I thought it was a joke!” he said.
But it wasn’t a joke. Poulard was taken into custody by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement – or ICE – and his deportation proceedings started. He was scheduled to go back to Haiti early last year, but then a magnitude 7 earthquake devastated the country. Jerry has been living at his aunt’s since he was released, but doesn’t know how long that he’ll be there for. “I could be next to be deported,” he said, “I could be next to be in Haiti, next week or the week after that.”
In the meantime, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights is urging the Obama administration to immediately cease deportations of Haitian citizens who are seriously ill or who have family ties in the US, even if they have criminal records. Michelle Karshan coordinates a health care program in Haiti’s national prison. She is based in Port-au-Prince and is familiar with the state of police station holding cells in the country. This is where deportees are held when they arrive in Haiti.
“It’s very very crowded, there’s no beds, there’s no sinks, there’s no toilets,” she said. “They’re not provided any treated water to drink and the government doesn’t provide them with any food.”
Advocates like Karshan say the US should consider the humanitarian crisis that persists in the country both from the earthquake and from the cholera epidemic that has killed thousands. The American Civil Liberties Union says beyond the situation in Haiti, there needs to be more flexibility when determining who gets sent back. Jamil Dakwar is the director of the Human Rights Program at the ACLU. He says the deportation laws passed in 1996 take away the power of immigration judges to review deportations on a case-by-case basis.
“Just like the US government has different parole policies that are much more relaxed to particular vulnerable communities,” he said. “I think it has to be a very clear policies that are fair and humane but also take into account specific and individual cases, of individual circumstances.”
Dakwar says the U.S. government should adjust deportations practices to allow for the grey areas that are bound to come up in particular cases.
“This issue becomes even more difficult when you are deporting someone to a country that has been hit by one of the worst natural disasters in history,” he said.
ICE has not deported any Haitians since January 20th, following the death of one of the first post-earthquake deportees. ICE spokesperson Barbara Gonzalez says the US is moving forward with plans to deport 700 Haitians in 2011. Michelle Karshan of Alternative Chances, thinks future deportees will face health problems.
“There’s nothing in place that’s going to be different,” she said. “And the US had said originally that they had assurances from the Haitian government. We’ve yet to see what these assurances were, and I don’t believe there’s anything in place that’s going to be any different. ”
Jerry Poulard, like many others, is waiting. “I just want a second chance because, I’m not doing anything wrong, I’m just trying to be a productive person in society,” he said.
Poulard is not allowed to work, so he goes to church frequently and checks in with ICE officials every 3 months.
Editor’s Note: Post updated on March 11 to accurately reflect Michelle Karshan’s work in Haiti. She coordinates the Health through Walls program in Haiti’s national prison, not in detention centers.