WASHINGTON — In a joint letter to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano February 7, Archbishop José H. Gomez, Coadjutor Archbishop of Los Angeles and chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Committee on Migration, and Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tucson, chairman of the Board of Catholic Relief Services, the U.S. bishops’ international humanitarian agency, expressed opposition to the recent resumption of deportations to the nation of Haiti.
“We are disturbed and dismayed over the January 20, 2010, deportation of 27 Haitians, one of whom is reported to have died from cholera. We ask that you cease these deportations indefinitely,” they wrote.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) of DHS announced the resumption of deportations to Haiti December 9th. Since then, about 300 Haitians have been transferred to Louisiana in advance of deportation to the stricken island nation. DHS also announced that it intends to deport 700 Haitians by the end of the year.
Citing the slow recovery from the January 12, 2010 earthquake, the outbreak of cholera, and recent civil unrest, the bishops stated that Haiti is not prepared to receive deportees.
“Now is not the time to resume deportations to Haiti, nor would it be morally or politically appropriate to do so in the foreseeable future,” they wrote. “To continue deportations in the face of such conditions would represent a knowing disregard for the life and dignity of Haitians scheduled for deportation.”
The bishops also argued that resuming deportations could communicate the wrong message to the Haitian people, who are depending upon the United States for long-term support in their effort to recover from the earthquake.
“Moreover, [the resumption of deportations] would signal to a nation struggling to recover from natural disaster that the United States is retreating from its commitment to help Haiti return to health, ” they stated.
The bishops outlined several steps DHS should take to assist Haiti, including a re-designation of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to Haiti so that Haitians who arrived after the earthquake could qualify; the extension of humanitarian parole to family members of Haitians brought to the United States for medical care; and the implementation of a family parole program for 55,000 Haitians with approved family petitions into the United States as they wait for their priority dates to become current.
The bishops argued that the adoption of these measures would ensure the continued flow of remittances to the country and would “send an important signal to the Haitian people that the United States remains committed to their long-term welfare.”
The letter concluded with a special appeal to the DHS Secretary.
“Madam Secretary, your designation of TPS for Haiti immediately after the January 12, 2010, earthquake was an important and well-received humanitarian action. We urge you not to negate that positive action with a resumption of deportations at this time.”
Full text of the letter follows.
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