A number of Democrats have thrown their support behind legislation that, if passed, would suspend the deportations of Haitian nationals until the coronavirus crisis ends in both the United States and Haiti.
Florida Democratic Rep. Frederica Wilson introduced the Haitian Deportation Relief Act Monday, which would not only place a moratorium on Haitian deportations but calls for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to provide alternatives to detention for migrants who are deemed not to be a public safety threat.
Wilson, a U.S. lawmaker long known for sporting cowboy hats in public, likened deportations to Haiti as a “death sentence” in a statement Monday.
“Deporting people to Haiti in the midst of a global pandemic is both inhumane and unsafe,” Wilson said. “Continuing these flights will likely contribute to the spread of the novel coronavirus in the impoverished nation where many people do not have access to basic health care.”
The bill comes as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to plague the world, including the U.S. and Haiti. As of Monday afternoon, there were more than 1,346,800 confirmed cases in the U.S., and 182 confirmed cases in Haiti.
The bill is co-sponsored by 19 other Democrats in the House.
Wilson’s office reported that a survey of 76 percent of Haiti’s health facilities showed just 124 ICU beds and the capacity to ventilate 62 patients for the whole country. Officials in Haiti — an impoverished country of roughly 11 million people — have previously called on the Trump administration to stop deporting Haitian nationals.
Just one day before the introduction of Wilson’s legislation, a Haitian presidential panel tasked with managing the coronavirus pandemic called for the suspension of Haitian deportations from the U.S. until the disease is controlled, according to the Miami Herald.
“The Trump administration’s decision to continue deporting Haitians during a global pandemic is irresponsible and cruel,” said New York Democratic Rep. Eliot Engel, a cosponsor of the legislation. “Even before the pandemic, Haiti faced a significant political and economic crisis.”
“These deportations are indefensible and must be halted immediately,” Engel continued
Since the coronavirus pandemic began, Democrats have used the crisis to call for a moratorium on all deportations and immigrant detainment in general. However, the Trump administration has pushed back vehemently on these efforts, blocking the release of illegal aliens in the courtroom and through executive action.
President Donald Trump, for example, issued a memo in April, threatening visa sanctions against any country that refuses to accept deportees from the U.S.
Deportation flights not only allow the U.S. government to carry out repatriation orders, but during the time of coronavirus, these flights have proven instrumental in rescuing stranded Americans abroad. Since the crisis began, ICE Air Operations have flown over 1,000 U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents back to the U.S., placing them aboard on the return leg home.
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