U.S. must stop deportations to Haiti: Deportations now during a global pandemic is Trump’s cruel, and usual, punishment of Haitians

April 20, 2020

We the undersigned are concerned about the health and human rights of Haitian immigrants and denounce the Trump Administration’s deportation of 61 Haitian Nationals on April 7, 2020, from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention centers. 

We the undersigned demand that the Trump Administration halt all deportations to Haiti during the coronavirus pandemic.  More deportations to Haiti are scheduled for the coming days and weeks. Rather than be deported where they face serious harm if they fall ill and risk infecting thousands of others, they should be released from detention into the care of their friends and families so that they may safely quarantine, especially those who are more vulnerable to serious complications from the virus due to age, medical condition or other factors.

We are deeply concerned that all detainees in ICE detention centers have a high risk of exposure to coronavirus.  Dozens of immigration detainees and ICE agents in often-overcrowded detention facilities across the country have tested positive for COVID-19. While states across the country mandate social distancing, in many of the detention centers over 100 detainees live in one dorm room and share only a few toilets.  Detainees have minimal access to medical care, COVID tests, soap or hand sanitizer. Given these conditions, detainees are at high risk of both contracting and dying from COVID-19.

However, reducing overcrowding in detention centers does not mean that ICE should deport detainees without proper removal proceedings in the midst of the largest global pandemic of our lifetimes.  John Sandweg, Former acting director of ICE, concedes that ICE detention centers “are extremely susceptible to outbreaks of infectious diseases” and recommends that the Trump Administration “release the thousands of nonviolent, low-flight-risk detainees currently in ICE custody.” 

We are also concerned that Haiti’s fragile government, almost non-existent healthcare system and close, impoverished living conditions would make it challenging to contain and treat a massive surge of COVID-19 cases.  According to a local nonprofit, as a result of international policy and government inaction, Haiti has only 39 physicians to manage COVID-19, 124 ICU beds and the capacity to ventilate 62 people in a country of 11 million people.  Community spread of the disease, 47 cases and three deaths have been reported. These numbers are likely to be far higher, as only 498 tests had been reportedly administered to date. 

It’s unclear how the U.S. government could justify deportations when last month it issued a level 4 travel advisory for Haiti, labeling Haiti as dangerous as conflict zones such as Afghanistan, South Sudan and Somalia.  But the deportation on April 7 falls in line with the U.S. government’s long history of discrimination and poor treatment against Haitians. 

For over 200 years, Haiti has tried to be a friend to the U.S., but the U.S. has never had Haiti’s best interest.  Haitians continue to pay for winning their independence from France in a slave rebellion in 1804, and for abolishing slavery.  The U.S. did not recognize Haiti’s statehood until 1862, 58 years after it declared independence. In 1915-34, the U.S. Marines illegally invaded and occupied Haiti, seized control of the Haitian National Bank and amended the constitution to allow foreign land ownership.  More recently, the U.S. financially and diplomatically supported the Duvalier dictatorship from 1957-86, supported the overthrow of democratically-elected president Jean-Bertrand Aristide and meddled in multiple recent elections.

The U.S. immigration prison system as we know it today started in the 1990s when the Coast Guard collected tens of thousands of Haitian refugees and imprisoned them in Guantanamo Bay.  Guantanamo was known as the “HIV prison camp” because of the poor treatment of HIV positive Haitian refugees, who were wrongly blamed for the AIDS epidemic in the U.S.

President Donald Trump promised to be a champion for Haitian-Americans on his campaign trail in South Florida in 2016, but this president too has disregarded the rights and dignity of Haitians.  President Trump notoriously referred to Haiti as a sh*ithole country in 2018, and terminated Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Haitians despite evidence from his own State Department that Haiti was unprepared to receive deportees due to a severe housing shortage and public health crisis following the 2010 earthquake, Hurricane Matthew and a cholera epidemic brought by United Nations peacekeeping soldiers.  

In the words of The Miami Herald Editorial Board, “Deportations despite coronavirus is Trump’s cruel, and usual, punishment of Haitians.”  

We proudly stand in solidarity with our Haitian sisters and brothers and urge the Trump Administration to immediately take the following actions:

  • Halt all deportations of Haitian Nationals back to Haiti;
  • Release immigrants from detention maximizing use of humanitarian parole, release on recognizance, and where necessary, community-based alternatives to detention, following medical screening and in a manner consistent with public health protocols on COVID-19; and
  • Coordinate with local groups to ensure housing and transportation upon release, and avoid holding asylum seekers in enclosed or densely populated spaces.


  1. A. Philip Randolph Institute
  2. African Advocacy Network (AAN)
  3. Adelanto Visitation Network
  4. Adhikaar
  5. Advocate Visitors with Immigrants in Detention
  6. African Communities Together
  7. Al Oltro Lado
  8. Alianza Americas
  9. Alkalay Law Office
  10. Alternative Chance
  11. AME-SADA, INC.
  12. America’s Voice
  13. Americans for Immigrant Justice
  14. Association of Haitian Professionals (AHP)
  15. Baptist Peace fellowship of North America
  16. Beyond Borders
  17. Black Alliance for Immigration Justice (BAJI)
  18. Black LGBTQ+ Migrant Project (BLMP)
  19. Brooklyn Defender Services
  20. Cabinet d’Avocats Spécialisés en Litige Stratégique des Droits Humains (CASLSDH)
  21. Cameroon American Council
  23. Center for Gender & Refugee Studies (CGRS)
  24. Church World Service (CWS Global)
  25. Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice
  26. CLUE-Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice
  27. Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA)
  28. Coalition of Black Trade Unionists
  29. Coalition on Human Needs
  30. Community Justice Exchange – National Bail Fund Network
  31. Congregation of Sisters of St. Agnes
  32. Consortium for a Haiti that Works (CHW)
  33. Communist Party USA (CPUSA)
  34. Crossing Borders – Dubuque
  35. CUNY
  36. Defenseurs Plus
  37. Democratic Socialists of America – Los Angeles
  38. Disaster Law Project
  39. Dominican Development Center, Inc.
  40. Dominican Sister of Mission San Jose
  41. Dominican Sisters of Houston
  42. Dominican Sisters of Tacoma
  43. Environmental Justice Initiative for Haiti
  44. Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement
  45. Families Belong Together
  46. Families For Freedom
  47. First Friends of NJ & NY
  48. Floaves Inc
  49. Fondasyon Mapou
  50. Four Freedoms Forum
  51. Franciscan Sisters of the Poor
  52. Freedom for Immigrants
  53. FWD.us
  54. Gender Action
  55. Grassroots International
  56. Haiti Justice Alliance
  57. Haiti Justice Committee
  58. Haiti Justice Committee of Minnesota
  59. Haiti Partners
  60. Haiti Support Network
  61. Haitian-American Community Coalition, Inc. (HCC)
  62. Haitian Americans United for Progress, Inc. (HAUP)
  63. Haitian Bridge Alliance
  64. Haitian Educators League for Progress
  65. Haitian Studies Association
  66. Hastings to Haiti Partnership
  67. Healthworks Ending Detention
  68. Holy Names Sisters
  69. Holy Union Sisters
  70. Hope Border Institute
  71. Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights
  72. Immaculate Heart Community
  73. Immigrant and Refugee Committee, Sisters of the Most Precious Blood
  74. Immigrant Defenders Law Center
  75. Immigrant Legal Defense
  76. Immigrants List
  77. Inland Coalition for Immigrant Justice
  78. Innovation Law Lab
  79. Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH)
  80. Intercommunity Justice and Peace Center
  81. International Human Rights Clinic, Harvard Law School
  82. Jerusalem Agape SDA Church
  83. Jewish Community Action
  84. Justice For Our Neighbors Houston
  86. Kriyol Dance Collective
  87. La Union del Pueblo Entero (LUPE)
  88. LA Voice
  89. Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center
  90. Latin America Working Group (LAWG)
  91. Leadership Conference of Women Religious
  92. Li, Li, Li! Read
  93. MADRE
  94. Make the Road NY
  95. Matthew 25
  96. Minnesota Immigrants Rights Action Network (MIRAC)
  97. Minority Humanitarian Foundation
  98. Mississippi Workers’ Center for Human Rights
  99. National Conference of Black Lawyers
  100. National Immigrant Justice Center
  101. National Justice for Our Neighbors
  102. National Korean American Service & Education Consortium (NAKASEC)
  103. National Lawyers Guild (NLG)
  104. National Lawyers Guild Central Arizona
  105. National Network for Immigrant & Refugee Rights
  106. New Sanctuary Coalition
  107. Northern Illinois Justice for Our Neighbors
  108. New York State Association for Bilingual Education (NYSABE)
  109. Ohio Immigrant Alliance
  110. Orange County Equality Coalition
  111. Partners In Health
  112. Pax Christi Ayiti
  113. Poder Latinx
  114. Presbyterian Church USA
  115. Priority Africa Network
  116. Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada
  117. Project Blueprint
  118. Project South
  119. Quixote Center
  120. Reformed Church of Highland Park
  121. Refugee Support Network
  122. Religious of Jesus and Mary
  123. Réseau National de Défense des Droits Humains (RNDDH)
  124. Resilience Orange County
  125. Resources to Resources
  126.  Rian Immigrant Center
  127. RLM Art Studio/Drawing the Line
  128. Salesians of Don Bosco
  129. Salvadoran American Leadership and Educational Fund
  130. San Antonio Region Justice For Our Neighbors
  131. Sant La, Haitian Neighborhood Center
  132. School Sisters of Notre Dame
  133. School Sisters of Notre Dame Atlantic Midwest Province
  134. School Sisters of Notre Dame, Central Pacific Province
  135. Schools of the America Watch (SOAW) East Bay, California
  136. Sequoia Potential
  137. Services, Immigrant Rights & Education Network (SIREN)
  138. Sinsinawa Dominican Associates
  139. Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary
  140. Sister of Charity of Leavenworth
  141. Sisters of Mercy of the Holy Cross USA Province
  142. Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia
  143. Sisters of St. Joseph
  144. Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange
  145. Sisters of St. Joseph of Brentwood NY Office of Justice, Peace, Integrity of Creation
  146. Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, LA Province
  147. Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus & Mary
  148. Sisters of the Living Word
  149. Still Waters Anti-trafficking Program
  150. Society of the Holy Child Jesus, American Province
  151. South Texas Human Rights Center
  152. SFV Indivisible
  153. The Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI)
  154. The Haitian Women’s Collective
  155. The Legal Aid Society (New York)
  156. The United Methodist Church – General Board of Church and Society
  157. Transforming Justice Orange County
  158. UC Davis Immigration Law Clinic
  159. Unitarian Universalist Service Committee
  160. United We Dream
  161. Venice Resistance
  162.  Witness at the Border
  163. Women For Orange County
  164. Woodhull Freedom Foundation

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