Tuesday, January 25, 2011

U.S. resumes deportations to Haiti

The economy is expected to be the primary topic in tonight’s State of the Union address and, according to ABC News’ Jake Tapper, President Barack Obama will propose a budget freeze and a ban on Congressional earmarks. Yet it will be interesting to see if and how he will treat other topics such as the problematic situation in Haiti and the need for federal immigration reform. Recently both of these topics were in the news as part of a major change in U.S. immigration policy towards Haiti.

Deportations of undocumented Haitians from the U.S. resumed last week after a one-year post-earthquake moratorium. Immigration officials announced that the 27 Haitian nationals deported were classified as "criminal aliens” including a man acquitted in a 2007 plot to destroy Chicago’s Willis Tower. Authorities reportedly plan to deport approximately 700 Haitians with criminal records who are said to pose "a threat to public safety."

Representatives of Haitian expat groups in the U.S. deplored the immigration measure. "I think it's outrageous and it's inhumane and very insensitive," said Marleine Bastien, executive director of the Haitian Women of Miami to the AP. A statement from the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center claimed that the move would worsen Haiti’s humanitarian crisis and that deportees could be “sent to a cholera-infested jail where they risk death.”

Immigration officials in Haiti’s neighbor, the Dominican Republic, have also taken their own steps. Earlier this month nearly one thousand undocumented Haitians were deported in what was described as the first “major crackdown” since the January 2010 earthquake. Dominican immigration chief Sigfrido Pared said that the move was necessary in order to combat the spread of cholera from Haiti. Indeed a Haitian man became the first cholera fatality in the Dominican Republic last week though his immigration status has not been reported and one of his sons told the press that his father hadn’t visited Haiti in nine years. Additionally, an advisor with Amnesty International claimed that deportations worsen the “great” health and security risk in Haiti.

The criticism of immigration policy towards Haiti has also affected Canada where officials recently praised the over 3000 Haitian migrants permitted to legally enter Quebec since the earthquake. For one resident, however, the measures were not entirely fair:
Neil Armand said Quebec boasted it was fast-tracking family reunification based on humanitarian considerations, but he said only those with a middle-class income qualified to sponsor relatives.

"They were saying if your family has enough money, you can bring them here. Does it mean that the people over there — the families with more money — were in more necessity than others? What kind of priority is that?" Armand said.
Image- AFP via BBC News (“Authorities in the Dominican Republic say they are worried illegal immigrants could spread cholera.”)
Online Sources- CBC, NPR, ABC News, LAHT, AP, Reuters, Voice of America

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