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Haiti: U.S. deportation policy in flux

Port au Prince, Haiti

The United States is set to resume deportations to Haiti despite authorities reporting that it may take decades for Haiti to recover from Hurricane Matthew. The following article was published in the November-December 2016 issue of NewsNotes.

On October 4, Hurricane Matthew hit Haiti. According to the United Nations, more than 1,000 people were killed, tens of thousands homes were destroyed and the overall level of destruction is “catastrophic.” 

One way to support recovery efforts in Haiti is offered by Renate Schneider, a Maryknoll Affiliate from Chicago who coordinates Haitian Connection ( Renate lives part of the year in Haiti and part of the year in Chicago. Haitian Connection focuses on three main projects: housing for women, a mental health services in Jeremie, and building of the University of the Nouvelle Grand'Anse. 

In an e-mail update from Haiti on October 8, Renate said, "Close to 90 percent of the smaller houses with tin roofs [in Jérémie] have been completely destroyed." The University of the Nouvelle Grand'Anse was inundated due to flooding from a near-by river. She writes that classes will need to be put on hold. "Nobody escaped the devastation,” Renate wrote. “Most people have lost everything, clothes, photographs, and what is more important: birth certificates and other important documents. In other words, almost everybody starts at zero." 

In a strange twist of events, just days before Hurricane Matthew hit Haiti, the U.S. government announced that it planned to resume deporting undocumented Haitians. This would end a six-year moratorium put in place after the devastating earthquake on January 12, 2010.

One week after the hurricane, The Associated Press reported that the U.S. has "put a hold" on plans to restart deportations. But Homeland Security Secretary Jey Johnson said the U.S. will restart deportations as soon as the recovery from Hurricane Matthew is "addressed." 

Haitian authorities and international agriculture officials say it could be decades before the country recovers. The uncertainty in U.S. immigration policy has caused a panic among Haitians hoping to migrate to the U.S. There are news reports of hundreds of Haitians converging on the U.S.-Mexico border at Tijuana, in the hope of presenting themselves at the San Ysidro Port of Entry before border patrol officers are instructed to send undocumented Haitians to detention centers.

Faith in action:  Ask Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson to reinstate Temporary Humanitarian Parole for Haitians.

Photo: Port au Prince, Haiti, in an undated photo before Hurricane Matthew.