Haitian activists and lawyers say that the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency has, in recent weeks, begun rounding up Haitian immigrants for deportation [also see previous post US set to resume some deportations to Haiti]. According to CARICOM News Network, Barbara Gonzalez, an ICE spokeswoman has said that the agency was deciding whom to deport in a manner “consistent with our domestic immigration enforcement priorities.” U.S. federal officials had suspended deportations to Haiti immediately after the massive earthquake on January 12.
The Obama administration has explained it is focusing immigration enforcement efforts on catching and deporting immigrants who have been convicted of the most serious crimes or who pose a threat to national security, and officials say that Haitians who have been granted a special immigration status, known as temporary protected status (TPS), will continue to be shielded from deportation.
TPS, which is sometimes granted to foreigners who are unable to return safely to their home countries because of armed conflict or natural disasters, was extended to Haitians in the United States, permitting them to remain temporarily and work. TPS was granted for 18 months to Haitians and is set to expire in mid-July. According to the article, immigration officials declined to disclose how many Haitians they plan to deport but confirmed that 351 Haitians are in detention.
Although U.S. immigration officials say that they will deport only Haitians who have been convicted of crimes and have finished serving their sentences, Haitians in New York are bracing for broader deportations. Dr. Mathieu Eugene, the first elected Haitian official in the New York City Council, has said that “The people in the community are worried because they don’t know what the next target population is going to be.” He added, “I don’t think Haiti can handle more challenges than what it has right now. [. . .] The earthquake, the cholera, the election — everything’s upside down in Haiti.”
Also see related article from 13 January 2010 at http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/laplaza/2010/01/haiti-earthquake-us-halts-deportations-to-haiti.html