Wilson’s bill suspends deportations to Haiti during pandemic

Congresswoman Frederica S. Wilson, shown during a 2019 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. program, introduced the Haitian Deportation Relief Act on Monday.
JOSE A. IGLESIAS/EL NUEVO HERALD/TNS

On Monday, Congresswoman Frederica Wilson, who represents Florida’s 24th district, introduced the Haitian Deportation Relief Act, which calls for the suspension of deportations of Haitian nationals until the COVID-19 pandemic has ended in the U.S. and Haiti.

A Monday press release notes that the legislation also requires the Department of Homeland Security to prioritize migrants whose detention has been deferred and who do not pose a public safety risk for alternatives to detention. 

“Deporting people to Haiti in the midst of a global pandemic is both inhumane and unsafe. 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,” said Wilson. “That is tantamount to a death sentence for Haitians who are living with compromised water and sanitation systems and do not have access to the sanitation measures we’ve undertaken in the United States.”

Rep. Bennie G. Thompson, chair of the Committee on Homeland Security, applauded Wilson for her advocacy.

“ICE continues to deport people in the midst of a global pandemic and risks contributing to the spread of COVID-19. We simply should not be deporting anyone who has been in an affected facility, nor to countries such as Haiti that may struggle to respond to an outbreak,’’ he said. “I applaud Representative Wilson for her advocacy, and I am proud to join my colleagues in calling for deportation flights to be halted.” 

Rep. Eliot L. Engel, chair of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, added: “The Trump administration’s decision to continue deporting Haitians during a global pandemic is irresponsible and cruel. Even before the pandemic, Haiti faced a significant political and economic crisis. These deportations are indefensible and must be halted immediately. I commend Representative Wilson for this crucial legislation.”

The Haitian Deportation Relief Act is cosponsored by Reps. Bennie G. Thompson (MS-2), Eliot L. Engel (NY-16), Albio Sires (NJ-8), Karen Bass (CA-37), Kathy Castor (FL-14), Yvette D. Clarke (NY-9), Ted Deutch (FL-22), Alcee L. Hastings (FL-20), Barbara Lee (CA-13), Andy Levin (MI-9), James P. McGovern (MA-2), Gregory W. Meeks (NY-5), Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC), Donald M. Payne, Jr. (NJ-10), Ayanna Pressley (MA-7), Jan Schakowsky (IL-9), Darren Soto (FL-9), Nydia M. Velázquez (NY-7), and Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL-23). 

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