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Amid Unrest in Haiti, ICE Deports Dozens — Including a 2-Month-Old Baby — into “Burning House”

StoryFebruary 09, 2021
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U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has deported at least 72 people to Haiti, including a 2-month-old baby and 21 other children. The deportations appear to be a contradiction of the Biden administration’s order to deport only people with serious charges against them. Haiti faces an increase in political violence and ongoing protests against President Jovenel Moïse’s U.S.-backed regime, and Guerline Jozef, co-founder and executive director of Haitian Bridge Alliance, says sending people to Haiti is putting them in danger. “We should be providing protection for those people, but we are sending them into a burning house,” says Jozef.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González.

President Biden ordered a 100-day moratorium on deportations as one of his first acts in office. But on Monday, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, deported at least 72 people to Haiti. Those deported included a 2-month-old baby and 21 other babies and children — which seems to contradict the order by a federal judge that blocked the moratorium but left in place instructions that only the most serious immigration cases should be subject to deportation. The Guardian reports the adults and children were deported on two flights to the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince as the country faces skyrocketing political violence and protests against the Haitian president’s U.S.-backed regime. They’ve been going on for months, these protests.

Their push came after hundreds were deported within Biden’s first days in office, mostly from Haiti and African countries, including a man named Paul Pierrilus, who was deported to Haiti. New York Congressmember Mondaire Jones had previously worked to successfully stop his deportation by the Trump administration, before Biden was sworn in. But last Tuesday, Mondaire Jones tweeted, quote, “At 3am, my staff woke up to an urgent call. Suddenly, and in the dead of night, ICE was set to deport Rockland County’s beloved Paul Pierrilus to Haiti, a country where he has never been,” unquote.

Monday’s deportations to Haiti came after ICE had just suspended deportation flights to Haiti on Friday, following pressure from immigrant justice advocates, including our next guest, Guerline Jozef, co-founder and executive director of the Haitian Bridge Alliance, an immigrant support group. She’s joining us from Orange County, California, not far from the border.

Welcome to Democracy Now!, Guerline. Can you explain what just happened? How does a 2-month-old, a number of babies and, overall, more than 70 people get reported to Haiti after the moratorium of Biden is put into effect? Has ICE just gone rogue, or is this part of a Biden-Harris plan?

GUERLINE JOZEF: Good morning, Amy. Thank you for having us.

Actually, we are all in disbelief of what we are witnessing right now in these United States of ours, to see how we continue to witness the same draconian, the same cruel and inhumane process that President Trump left behind.

Yesterday, as you mentioned, there were two deportation flights to Haiti, unfortunately, the first one carrying about 72 people. Out of those 72 people included 22 children, and we saw as young as 2 months old. And we are looking at children, 2 months, 10 years old. They are right in the middle of developmental stage, where we should be providing protection for those people, but we see we are sending them into a burning — in a burning house. Literally, there’s a house burning, and we are sending pregnant women and children into this burning house.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Guerline Jozef, apparently ICE is using a controversial health statute, Title 42, that’s about more than 70 years old, that the Trump administration first started using. What is Title 42?

GUERLINE JOZEF: Title 42, they are using right now because of the pandemic. But the reality is, those people, I will say, are testing negative for COVID-19, so, therefore, it is an excuse to continue to deport people.

And as you mentioned earlier, under the moratorium from the president, did provide provision of relief and protection for those most vulnerable people, as we mentioned, that have been at the border for the past four years waiting for a chance to ask for asylum, understanding that President Trump completely destroyed the immigration system, completely trapped people at the U.S.-Mexico border, from MPP to third-country asylum agreement, forcing people to literally die, understanding that Black immigrants are the most vulnerable, the most impacted and the most neglected group of immigrants. So this has to stop. We can no longer stand by and watch people’s lives being destroyed. We are asking and demanding that all deportation flights are stopped immediately.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And is it your sense that ICE is acting on its own or that the Biden administration, the officials who have come in to homeland security and to ICE, the newly appointed officials, are aware of this?

GUERLINE JOZEF: I cannot speak on behalf of ICE nor the government nor the administration. But what I can say is that we saw — we saw the pain. We hear it in the voices of those children and those asylum seekers and those immigrants. We do not know what is going on. We do not know what the relationship is. But what we are seeing is unacceptable.

So we are asking for President Biden, for the administration, to do what needs to be done. ICE needs to listen to what the administration and the secretary are instructing them to do, right? They cannot just decide they’re going to do whatever they want. We understand, under President Trump, the boldness that it took for them to gut the immigration system. We understand the boldness that it took to literally uplift these draconian practices. So now we are asking boldness for good. We are asking boldness to build better. We are asking boldness for relief and protection for the people. So, whatever it is, the relationship might be, between ICE and the administration, we want this to be the — we want this to be the catalyst that we move forward to as a country.

AMY GOODMAN: You know, Juan and I — 

GUERLINE JOZEF: And we are also asking — yeah, and we are also asking the Haitian government to not accept those deportation flights. As you mentioned, we have a stateless man in Paul Pierrilus. I was on the phone with him and his attorney and Congressman Mondaire Jones’ staffer when they came to take him. I was on the phone hearing to his voice. I was on the phone with his attorney telling him to, please, please, go with them, because they wanted to remove him forcibly, while he was on the phone. His attorney did not receive a note saying that he was being removed. We only found out because we were on the phone with him when they came to get him.

AMY GOODMAN: Juan and I met in Haiti covering the U.S.-backed coups that took place there. Finally, Guerline, what people are being deported to in Haiti? And we don’t have much time.

GUERLINE JOZEF: Yes, thank you so much. Actually, right now we are in the middle of a major uprising. We are worried that we might end up with a bloody massacre. In one side, we have the opposition and a lot of people in the diaspora, in U.S. Congress, stating that based on the Constitution, the president should have left on Sunday, February the 7th. The president is saying, no, his term ends next year.

So, right now we are asking for protection. Those deportations cannot still continue to happen in the middle of a major crisis in Haiti. As you mentioned, we continue to see over and over the neglect, the lack of respect for life on both sides. So we are asking for that to be stopped.

AMY GOODMAN: Guerline Jozef, we want to thank you for being with us, executive director of the Haitian Bridge Alliance.

And again, Democracy Now! will be live-streaming the Senate impeachment trial of Donald Trump, gavel to gavel, starting at 1:00 Eastern time today. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González. Wearing a mask is an act of love. Wear two.

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