What you can do: The Haitian Immigration Crisis

We must act now to avert a U.S.-made disaster affecting thousands of Haitians


On September 22, apparently in response to anti-immigrant political pressure, DHS revoked a policy that allowed survivors of the 2010 Haitian earthquake to enter and stay in the United States. Yesterday, DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson affirmed that decision, stating, “the policy has not changed in light of Hurricane Matthew.” Although deportation flights have been temporarily halted, DHS officials are still arranging to deport Haitians from the United States. Haiti has said it does not have the capacity to receive them, even before the hurricane. Additionally, DHS policy puts families entering the United States at risk of being separated.

On Oct 12, 2016, the Department of Homeland Security announced that they will be temporarily suspending deportations to Haiti as a result of the damage Hurricane Matthew has done to the country. However, they stand behind the decision to increase deportations to Haiti and intend to keep thousands of non-criminal Haitian citizens in detention indefinitely until they renew deportations to Haiti.

With the loss in lives and property still being measured, this is no time to start deporting and detaining Haitians seeking to recover. Join UUSC in telling DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson:

  • Restore U.S. humanitarian policy that allows Haitians seeking refuge to enter the country.
  • Allow all Haitians already in the United States to stay and remain safe as the country recovers.
  • Keep families together in all cases.

How you can help

Support UUSC
UUSC is also working to strengthen our emergency response capacity—a capacity that can be a matter of life and death for the most marginalized and the most vulnerable. Help us respond to this humanitarian crisis and continue our life saving work around the world by rushing a generous gift to UUSC right now.

Take action
Let’s treat Haitians in the United States and on the border with the respect and dignity they deserve. Tell Secretary Johnson: We must restore U.S. policy that allows Haitians to enter the United States, allow those already in the country to stay, and keep families together. Sign and send a letter to DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson today.

Send a “Selfie of Solidarity”
Stand in solidarity with the people of Haiti by sharing a message of support in Haitian Creole. Make your own sign using the language below or click the message to print out a pre-made version, then take a selfie or group photo with your congregation while holding the message.

Send the photos to mobilization@uusc.org by Friday, November 4, 2016. We’ll compile all the images we receive and send all of them together to our partners on the ground. Please include your name and, if applicable, the name of your congregation or organization so we can share that information with our partners.

Join UUSC’s Refugee Rapid Response Network
Keep track of the latest news about refugee rights and how you can help protect them. Help the United States set an example that makes us proud by participating in actions and programs in your community, or by providing support for humanitarian assistance throughout the world. Sign up now.

Sign up to volunteer with UUCSJ
The UU College of Social Justice is in conversation with Haiti partners to determine whether volunteers from the United States can be of use in recovery efforts. As we engage in this discernment, we welcome potential volunteers to fill out this form, so we can begin to create a “skills bank” of those willing and able to assist. Add your name to volunteer here.

Congregational Resources

Click to download a PDF of the following items:

The Issue in the News

UUSC Statement on Hurricane Matthew

UUSC is deeply concerned about the people of Haiti in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew. We are working with our local partner organizations to assess the effects of the storm on “stateless” people stranded along the Dominican Republic border, and the more than 55,000 internally displaced people still living in camps and temporary shelters around the country.

As we learn about the situation on the ground, we will provide urgently-needed support to these marginalized populations. But there will be little time between their immediate needs and the next crisis. The hurricane threatens to further destabilize the country at a crucial point in time – the first round of Haiti’s scheduled presidential election is less than a week away.

The UU College of Social Justice is actively exploring Haiti’s need for volunteers with specific skills in the coming weeks and months. To learn more about the effects of Hurricane Matthew on Haiti’s population and how you can help, please contact us at info@uucsj.org.

UUSC responds strategically to disaster situations where human rights are threatened, focusing on the rights of marginalized and oppressed people. We work with the understanding that disasters, be they wars or hurricanes, tend to hurt most those who are already marginalized in society.

After large-scale disasters, such as Hurricane Katrina and the Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, UUSC and the Unitarian Universalist Association launch a joint appeal for humanitarian relief donations. Together, we have directed millions of dollars of relief aid toward disaster-affected communities in the United States and around the world. For more information, consult our web page of frequently asked questions about how UUSC responds to disasters and humanitarian crises.

Click here to make a donation and support our work today.


Updated October 13, 2016: For an update on UUSC’s advocacy work to support Haitian immigration to the United States  and how you can take action in your congregation to support efforts during this recovery period, please click here.

Report from the Haiti/Dominican Republic Border: For children, “stateless” means homeless, vulnerable

Take action today! Click here to tell Secretary Kerry to suspend miliary aid to the Dominican Republic until it stops deporting people of Haitian descent.

In June 2016, Michael Kourabas, UUSC Associate Director for Program and Partner Support, traveled to Belladère, Haiti, just inside the border with the Dominican Republic.  He and Kathleen McTigue, Director of the UU College of Social Justice, went there because this summer is a time of crisis for hundreds of thousands of residents of the Dominican Republic (D.R.), many of them children.

The crisis is the result of what’s been called la sentencia, a 2013 Dominican Constitutional Court ruling revoking citizenship for anyone who cannot provide proof of legal access into the country for their ancestors – even for Haitian-Dominicans born there – dating back to 1929. It’s a draconian, discriminatory law designed specifically to forcibly remove people of Haitian descent, and it’s enforced by Dominican border guards – police and military personnel – whose training is supported by foreign aid from the United States. Dominican police and military routinely have been selecting people they assume to be Haitian (i.e. profiled because of their darker skin), sending them to detention camps without access to food or sanitation facilities, and – without notifying family members – deporting them to Haiti, a country these individuals never called home, and which is not equipped to provide for even their most basic needs once they arrive. It’s a human rights disaster that is unfolding right before our eyes.

UUSC became involved in human rights work on the island of Hispaniola following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti that killed 160,000 people and left 1.5 million more homeless. Our partner organization, Zanmi Timoun (“Friends of Children”), was providing humanitarian relief to earthquake survivors and had been helping abused and enslaved children in Haiti since 2001. Through our collaboration, we learned of the persistent discrimination against people of Haitian descent in the D.R., and the impending effects of la sentencia. With new support from UUSC, Zanmi Timoun began providing humanitarian aid to children caught in these mass deportations, helping them reunite with their parents, and working with Haitian government agencies to repatriate unaccompanied children.

Last month’s visit to the Haitian-Dominican border is the third UUSC on-the-ground assessment during the past year. What they found was not encouraging. Children – the most vulnerable among tens of thousands of deportees – remain at risk of arriving in Haiti with minimal – if any – access to food, clothing, shelter, or bathing facilities. Already, cholera has been reported at some border crossings.

According to Michael, “When we arrived at the border, we noticed a Haitian Red Cross van leaving the official border crossing and heading to the Haiti Office National de la Migration (ONM) building, where Zanmi Timoun works alongside ONM to receive and document deportees. Ultimately, two vans would transport about 10 young men who had just been deported from the D.R. As soon as they were registered by Zanmi Timoun and ONM, we were told the young men snuck back into the DR using an ‘unofficial’ border crossing.”

Had these deportees been minors, they would have faced an even graver situation. “In May, the government locked the Brigade for the Protection of Minors (BPM) building, which Zanmi Timoun had been using to assist recently deported minors,” Michael explained. “Unfortunately, Zanmi Timoun’s supplies remain locked in the BPM building, so they do not even have sanitary kits to give to deportees.” Much needs to be done.

Since 1974, U.S. military aid has been suspended to at least 11 countries for human rights violations. It’s time for us to stop being complicit and to increase pressure on the Dominican Republic to restore citizenship to people of Haitian descent.

Because government policies in the D.R. are at the root of this crisis, UUSC believes taking action to stop these deportations is an important first step. That is why we are calling on our supporters to sign a petition to Secretary of State John Kerry demanding that the U.S. stop providing financial assistance to the D.R. military until it agrees to end this blatant violation of human rights. It’s an action the United States has taken before; since 1974, U.S. military aid has been suspended to at least 11 countries for human rights violations. It’s time for us to stop being complicit and to increase pressure on the D.R. to restore citizenship to people of Haitian descent.

Pamela Sparr, Associate Director for UUSC’s Justice Building Programs, sums up the challenge before us. “In crises like these, when the very survival of vulnerable children is at stake, it is important for our country to do something on their behalf. Demanding that we stop providing aid to a military force that is abusing children as a matter of government policy is only the first of many things that need to be done. Challenging the forced removal of Haitian-Dominicans is an important first step, but even after we succeed in this task, we must continue our work to ensure the human rights of children in the Dominican Republic and Haiti.”

Soap Can Save Lives

As we approach World Water Day on March 22, we’re contemplating the vital roles that clean water and adequate sanitation play in the health of people throughout the world. UUSC works to advance the human right to water every day with partners throughout the world. Clean water, access to proper sanitation, and even something as seemingly simple as soap — these things save lives.

First, a few facts we learned from U.N. Water:

  • “Today 2.5 billion people, including almost one billion children, live without even basic sanitation. Every 20 seconds, a child dies as a result of poor sanitation. That’s 1.5 million preventable deaths each year.” (World Water Development Report 2012)
  • “Globally, diarrhoea is the leading cause of illness and death, and 88 per cent of diarrhoeal deaths are due to a lack of access to sanitation facilities, together with inadequate availability of water for hygiene and unsafe drinking water.” (U.N. Joint Monitoring Programme)
  • “Washing hands with soap can reduce the risk of diarrheal diseases by up to 47 per cent.” (World Health Organization)

These are just some of the reasons that we’re excited to feature Hand in Hand, a sustainable soap company, at the Good Buy. For each Hand in Hand product you buy, they donate one bar of soap and one month of clean water to a child in the Global South.

Bill and Courtney, the founders of Hand in Hand, explain: “The goal was to come up with a household product people use every day, that had the power to save lives.” Plus, they make sure that the creation of their soaps isn’t wrecking the environment or taking advantage of workers and producers along the way. And your Good Buy purchase helps fund UUSC’s human rights programs around the world!

When you take all of that into account, it seems frivolous to talk about how great the actual soap is — but we can’t help but mention the awesome varieties (our favorites: wildflower and fern and sea salt) and the soothing, organic goodness.

This World Water Day, we’re feeling grateful that businesses like Hand in Hand exist. Because changing those stats up above is going take the actions of people — and businesses — who care deeply about people having access to clean water, to soap, and to the tools everyone deserves to keep themselves healthy. Since a child dies every 20 seconds due to poor sanitation, take your next 20 seconds to help save lives by buying Hand in Hand soap.