Frederica Wilson: Future Coronavirus Stimulus Efforts Should Ensure No More Haiti Deportations

This week, U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Fla., called on congressional leaders to include in any future coronavirus stimulus efforts a proposal to “bar the administration from deporting Haitian nationals for the duration of the global pandemic.

“In March, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency said that it would delay most deportations and that public safety was its top priority, but on Tuesday, April 7, ICE deported 61 migrants to Haiti despite calls to delay the flight,” Wilson’s office noted. “The administration also has begun pressuring countries like Haiti to continue accepting U.S. deportees. On Friday, April 10, President Trump issued a memo instructing consular officials to stop processing U.S. visas for countries that do not accept repatriated migrants.”

Earlier this month, Wilson rounded up more than 15 House Democrats is sending a letter to acting U.S. DHS Sec. Chad Wolf, urging him to keep the Haitians in the U.S. Other Florida Democrats who signed the letter include U.S. Reps. Kathy Castor, Val Demings, Ted Deutch, Lois Frankel, Alcee Hastings, Donna Shalala, Darren Soto and Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

“Like many of the countries to which migrants are being repatriated, Haiti lacks the public health infrastructure to prevent the spread of the virus or to treat a large number of infected people. Haiti has struggled to rebuild in the aftermath of the devastating 2010 earthquake and other disasters, including a cholera epidemic,” the representatives wrote. “Many citizens still lack access to the most basic medical care, potable water, and soap for handwashing. It is unconscionable to repatriate migrants who may be unwitting carriers of the virus into such an environment.”

“In March, Immigration and Customs Enforcement said that the agency would ‘delay enforcement actions’ and that it’s highest priorities are to promote lifesaving and public safety activities,’” Wilson’s office insisted. “Continuing to deport migrants to Haiti would have implications for the U.S., as well, because Haiti’s health-care system is so drastically compromised, and it does not have the infrastructure in place to care for even a dozen coronavirus patients. If an outbreak occurs in Haiti, the United States may be forced to financially intercede and care for the people of Haiti because a pandemic will be too overwhelming for the island nation to conquer. The Department of Homeland Security is reportedly deporting detainees without first testing them for COVID-19.”

Wilson said ICE should have the Haitians in the U.S. illegally shelter in place.

“ICE needs to allow these detainees to shelter in place. That’s what the president promised. It is creating a very dangerous situation for the airports, the Caribbean, and ICE itself. It’s another mechanism to spread the virus across the world,” said Wilson.

Wilson returned to that theme this week.

“Continuing to deport migrants to Haiti would have implications for the U.S. because Haiti’s health-care system is so dramatically compromised and the island nation does not have the infrastructure in place to care for a large number of coronavirus patients. If an outbreak occurs in Haiti, the United States may be forced to financially intercede and care for the people of Haiti because a pandemic would be too overwhelming for the nation to conquer,” Wilson’s office noted.

Wilson weighed in on the deportations on Monday.

“Continuing deportations amid a public health crisis that has ensnared most of the world is thoughtless and cruel. Having traveled to Haiti and observed its health-care infrastructure firsthand, I fear that a widespread outbreak would devastate the island nation,” said Wilson. “Deporting migrants after months spent detained in close quarters needlessly puts millions of Haitians at risk.”

Wilson rounded up almost 20 members of the House to sign her letter to U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and U.S. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., including, once again, Castor, Demings, Deutch, Frankel, Hastings, Shalala, Soto and Wasserman Schultz from the Florida delegation.

 

Reach Kevin Derby at kevin.derby@floridadaily.com.

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