Despite what has been described as a humanitarian crisis, the United States has started the second round of deportations to Haiti.
Immigration officials said that 19 Haitians, who had been convicted of crimes in the US, were sent back to the impoverished, French-speaking Caribbean country.
“US officials confirmed that they have received no assurances that the 19 individuals who were deported will be treated humanely upon their arrival in Haiti,” said the Washington-based Centre for Constitutional Rights, a civil rights advocacy group, after a conference call with immigration officials.
Friday’s deportation was the second since the devastating January 12 earthquake in Haiti last year that killed an estimated 300,000 people and left more than a million others homeless.
The US had halted deportations in the wake of the massive earthquake, but immigration officials announced in December that would resume deportations in January.
At least 27 Haitians were deported on January 20.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials said they plan to send 700 immigrants back to Haiti this year, ignoring the objections of human rights groups, which insist that the move is “equivalent to a death sentence”.
Barbara Gonzalez, an ICE spokeswoman, said those sent back were “criminal aliens”, who were convicted in US courts for various violations of the law. She said all have already served sentences in American prisons.
The Centre for Constitutional Rights and a number of immigration advocacy groups have condemned the latest round of deportations, calling on the Obama Administration to immediately “halt all removals to Haiti and the release of all Haitians being held with final orders of removal.
“The United States has an obligation not to deport anyone to death,” said the groups, which comprise the University of Miami School of Law Human Rights Clinic and Immigration Clinic, FANM/Haitian Women of Miami, Alternative Chance, and Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center.
“Our country must live up to its human rights commitments and immediately halt any and all deportations to Haiti,” they added.