The United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) says over 200 Haitians have been deported in the last several weeks, as the Obama administration has resumed deportation of Haitians living illegally in the country.
DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson said on Nov. 22 that the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency, which falls under DHS’ jurisdiction, also “plans to significantly expand removal operations in the coming weeks.”
But Johnson said Haitian nationals currently covered by Temporary Protected Status (TPS) are unaffected by the resumption of deportation to the French-speaking Caribbean country.
“Specifically, those Haitian nationals who have been continuously residing in the United States since Jan. 12, 2011 and currently hold TPS may remain in the United States and are not subject to removal,” he said in a statement. “These beneficiaries also remain eligible for employment authorization.”
Johnson said TPS for Haitian nationals has been extended through July 22, 2017, adding, however, that “recently, we have seen an increase in the numbers of those apprehended on the southern border.”
He said he has instructed border security and immigration enforcement personnel “to take steps to keep pace with this increase.”
As a result, the DHS secretary said there are currently about 41,000 immigrants in United States immigration detention facilities, including over 4,400 Haitians. Typically, the number in immigration detention is about 31,000 to 34,000, he said.
“I have authorized ICE to acquire additional detention space so that those apprehended at the border and not eligible for humanitarian relief can be detained and sent home as soon as possible,” Johnson said. “We must enforce the immigration laws consistent with our priorities.
“Those who attempt to enter our country illegally must know that, consistent with our laws and our values, we must and we will send you back,” he affirmed.
Following the tragic earthquake that struck Haiti in January 2010, Johnson noted that ICE ceased deporting Haitians living illegally in the United States.
But, in 2011, Johnson said the United States resumed the removals of Haitians “on a limited basis, who had final orders of removal and had been convicted of a serious crime.”
On Sept. 22 this year, Johnson announced that the United States would resume removals of Haitian nationals “in accordance with our existing enforcement priorities.”
He said this includes those apprehended at the United States border, attempting to enter the country illegally.
In the wake of Hurricane Matthew, which struck Haiti on Oct. 4, Johnson said removal flights to Haiti were briefly suspended.
Earlier this month, Caribbean American congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke urged the Obama administration to immediately halt the deportation of undocumented Haitians, stating that “the majority of the people DHS intends to remove have not been accused of any crime.”
“These deportations will return thousands of Haitians to a country that continues to struggle with the devastation of Hurricane Matthew and the recent outbreak of cholera that was introduced by international aid workers responding to the 2010 earthquake,” added the daughter of Jamaican immigrants, who represents the 9th Congressional District in Brooklyn, New York.
“In this period of turmoil, the forced removal of Haitian nationals will only exacerbate the difficulties of rebuilding Haiti and deny families access to remittances from relatives in the United States,” Clarke said. “I am deeply saddened that these deportations have resumed, and I call on President Obama and his administration to end this policy immediately.”
On Nov. 2, Clarke, with 13 of her congressional colleagues, urged Johnson to suspend the removal of Haitian nationals who have not been convicted of a serious crime or otherwise present a threat to US national security.
Earlier, two major Haitian Diaspora groups in New York launched an online petition requesting that Obama also immediately halt the deportation of undocumented Haitians in the wake of the massive destruction caused by Hurricane Matthew.
The New York-based Haiti Renewal Alliance and the United Front of the Haitian Diaspora launched the petition, saying that they are hoping to build awareness to support it, which, on receiving 100,000 signatures, will require an official response from the White House.
“This petition is to urge President Barack Obama to grant Deferred Enforcement Departure (DED), expand and/or Re-designate Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Haitian nationals, including recently arrived individuals who are currently threatened with deportation, based on the devastation of Hurricane Matthew,” the petition says.
“It is currently impractical, unsafe and inhumane to deport people into the country at this time,” the petition says. “Haitians are hardworking, law-abiding, contribute to the US economy, as well as supporting their families via remittances.”