Saturday, September 20, 2008

No Deportations To Storm-Crippled Haiti, For Now


MIAMI -No deportations to storm-crippled Haiti are planned, federal immigration officials said Friday, an encouraging sign to advocates who say the Caribbean country needs more time to recover before it can deal with fresh arrivals.

No removals from the U.S. are scheduled, and federal officials were evaluating conditions in the country, said U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman Barbara Gonzalez. Haiti is trying to rise from the wreckage left behind by three hurricanes and a tropical storm within a month.

"When we feel it's appropriate to resume, we'll notify members of Congress. There are no imminent removals to Haiti," said ICE spokeswoman Barbara Gonzalez.

Ralph Latortue, the Haitian consul general in Miami, said he stopped issuing travel documents for detainees, but deportations had continued.

The halt, even temporary, cheered Haitian advocates.

"We're encouraged by reports that our government is reviewing the issue of Haitian deportations and assessing conditions on the ground," said Cheryl Little, executive director of the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center.

Detainees' relatives told Catholic Charities Legal Services in Miami that a group was expected to be sent back to Haiti Friday. That group didn't go, said Randy McGrorty, chief executive officer of the agency.

"The fact that they considered doing it is chilling," McGrorty said. "The fact that they might resume this is frightening."

The conditions in impoverished Haiti are horrendous, leaders say. At least 425 people were killed and thousands left homeless by severe flooding after the storms.

Relief efforts have been hindered by Haiti's neglected infrastructure. Aid agencies and diplomats say mass hunger is a risk because the storms wiped out Haiti's crops and damaged irrigation systems and pumping stations.

Even before the storms, skyrocketing food prices sparked violent protests across the Western Hemisphere's poorest country this spring. Haiti's chronic political and economic instability have prompted a U.S. State Department warning against travel to the country of 8.5 million people.

Some South Florida congressional members, who represent the largest Haitian community in the U.S., said they were disappointed that Haitians have not been granted temporary protected status.

The status allows immigrants from countries experiencing armed conflict or environmental disasters to stay and work in the U.S. for a limited time. It has been granted to a handful of African and Central American countries.

Source: MiamiHerald.Com

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