Groups Work to Stop Deportations to Haiti Amid Coronavirus Pandemic

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement via AP

There's outcry from the Haitian community in South Florida and one member of Congress over deporting Haitians back to the island in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, after advocates say Immigration and Customs Enforcement deported almost 130 people Thursday.

Recent video taken by NBC news in Haiti showed few residents wearing masks, others covering their faces with cloth items, and others with no protection. It’s what those fighting to protect the Haitian community say people being deported are going back to, the poverty that is a way of every day life in Haiti.

The head of the Family Action Network Movement said almost 130 Haitians were scheduled to be on the aircraft that left Miami International Airport and landed in Port Au Prince around noon Thursday.

“Haiti is not equipped, it lacks the infrastructure to deal with any outbreak of this pandemic. We know that the 128 people deported today have all been exposed to folks who have tested positive for COVID-19," Marline Bastien said.

Bastien said earlier this month 3 of the 61 Haitians deported had the coronavirus. The group, along with other organizations, wrote President Donald Trump asking him to stop Thursday’s flight, and wrote the President of Haiti asking him not to accept it.

The government has reported that 60 people have COVID-19.

"We heard from the Trump administration that Haiti and the Caribbean will not be able to obtain equipment from the U.S. So, this is creating an impossible situation and it's putting millions of people at risk," Bastien said. "Can you imagine?"

South Florida Congresswoman Frederica Wilson also wrote the Department of Homeland Security, urging them to halt the deportations for now.

"Deporting people to Haiti in the midst of a global pandemic is both inhumane and unsafe. Since the deportation flight two weeks ago, the number of confirmed cases has nearly doubled," said Wilson. "Continuing these flights will likely contribute to the spread of the novel coronavirus in the impoverished nation where many people do not have access to basic health care."

Bastien said the devastating impact of coronavirus spreading in Haiti is hard to comprehend.

“If an outbreak descended on open Haiti, it would wipe out the island. So, this is of grave concern for us,” she said.

ICE, which handles these deportations for security reasons, doesn’t talk about any of their operations. NBC 6 reached out but didn’t hear back from them.

Wilson is introducing legislation that would stop the deportations back to Haiti. She said for someone getting COVID-19 in Haiti would basically mean a death sentence.

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