The Unitarian Universalist Service Committee advances human rights through grassroots collaborations.
October 14, 2016, Rights Reading
October 14, 2016
Our weekly roundup of what we’re reading: a few select articles from the front lines of human rights that we don’t want you to miss.
1. “U.S. to Step Up Deportations of Haitians Amid Surge at Border,” Kirk Semple, New York Times, September 22, 2016
There is surprising news about a new wave of Haitian migrants seeking admission to the United States along the border with Mexico, and the Obama administration’s decision to resume deportation of undocumented Haitians, reversing a longstanding policy of welcoming Haitian migrants since the 2010 earthquake.
Kirk Semple’s article reports the reason for this surge in Haitian refugees: many of them left Haiti for Brazil in search of work, but lost their jobs in that country’s recession. Since early 2015, thousands have made the journey by land through South America and Central America to the United States. Prior to Hurricane Matthew, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Jeh Johnson ruled that conditions in Haiti “had improved sufficiently to permit the U.S. government to remove Haitian nationals on a more regular basis.” While Secretary Johnson recently announced a “temporary” suspension of these deportations in light of the hurricane (see next story below), he also reaffirmed that they would continue in the near future.
The decision to resume deportations caught many advocates in the United States and Mexico by surprise. Semple’s article also reports that the U.S. government had not even finished consultations with the Haitian government about their ability to accept deported migrants before announcing the new policy. Representatives of a migrant shelter in Tijuana, Mexico, were at first encouraged to learn of U.S. plans to increase processing of Haitians at the border from 50 to 150 per day. But then they learned about the new policy. “They’re going to receive them to deport them. That’s bad news.”
This is no time to deport people back to Haiti. You can add your voice to UUSC’s current efforts to demand justice for Haitian migrants by signing a letter to DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson asking him to permanently end Haitian deportations, grant admission of Haitians to the United States for humanitarian reasons, and stop separating migrant families at the border.
2. “U.S. suspends deportations to Haiti after Hurricane Matthew,” Kate Linthicum, Los Angeles Times, October 12, 2016
Just three weeks after his September 22 decision to resume deportation of Haitian migrants, and a week after Hurricane Matthew struck the island nation, DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson announced a temporary suspension of deportations, citing the Haitian government’s need to address a growing humanitarian crisis in the wake of storm.
The September 22 policy change had also drawn substantial outrage from immigration activists, who noted the growing number of Haitian migrants crowding shelters in northern Mexico after traveling many months from Brazil and other countries only to face uncertain treatment at the hands of U.S. border officials (see previous story, above). Those migrants had been welcomed by Brazil after the 2010 earthquake and many had found work in advance of that country’s Summer Olympic Games, but had lost those jobs beginning in 2015.
Human rights advocates, including UUSC, continue to advocate for a permanent reversal of DHS’s September 22 policy change, because, as Kate Linthicum’s article reports, Secretary Johnson has stressed his suspension is only temporary and deportations will eventually continue. “This should be clear: The policy change I announced on Sept. 22 remains in effect, for now and in the future,’ he said. “DHS intends to resume [deportation] flights as soon as possible.’”
3. “Even the Government’s Own Advisory Committee Wants to End Family Detention,” Lindsay M. Harris, Guest Contributor, American Immigration Council Immigration Impact, October 7, 2016.
On June 14, 2015, DHS Secretary Johnson announced the establishment of an Advisory Committee on Family Residential Centers (ADFRC) to study the treatment of immigrant children and their mothers seeking protection in the United States and to recommend changes in that treatment based on their findings. On September 30, 2016, the ADFRC issued an extensive, nearly 160-page report, which included the Committee’s unanimous recommendation that “DHS should discontinue the general use of family detention.”
This remarkable admission by DHS’s own committee was based on findings that “detention is generally neither appropriate nor necessary for families,” and “never in the best interest of children.” Consistent with positions taken by UUSC and other human rights organizations, the report cited how current policies violate commitments made in the 1997 Flores Settlement which require a maximum period of three to five days during which children may be held in detention. Further, that detention centers are currently managed based on criminal justice models instead of the needs of innocent refugee and immigrant families. The report also focused on conditions under which mothers and children are held in the Berks County, Penn., ICE family detention center, which UUSC has previously spoken out against.
UUSC has since learned that despite the ADFRC’s recommendations, DHS intends to reject its own committee’s findings and all ICE family detention centers will remain open an operational Join a growing list of religious and faith-based organizations and people of faith calling for an end to family detention and a shift to community-based approaches for unaccompanied minors and families seeking asylum in the U.S. Let us use our collective power to create much needed change at this critical policy juncture.