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Haitian Advocates, Fearing COVID-19 Spread, Call On U.S. To Halt Deportation Flights

Haitian teens in Port-au-Prince wear protective masks to ward off COVID-19.
Dieu Nalio Chery
AP via Miami Herald
Haitian teens in Port-au-Prince wear protective masks to ward off COVID-19.

Earlier this month, the U.S. deported a group of Haitians back to Haiti – and some tested positive for the new coronavirus. Immigrant advocates are now demanding the U.S. not send another flight of Haitian deportees this week.

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Haitian media this week reported the country’s prime minister, Joseph Jouthe, said the U.S. is deporting 129 Haitians back to Haiti on Thursday. A letter signed by two dozen South Florida immigrant rights groups urges the Trump Administration not to send the flight. It urged Haiti not to accept the deportees.

The group – led by the Haitian-American advocacy gorup Family Action Network Movement, or FANM – called the request an “urgent” effort to stop the spread of COVID-19 in Haiti. That’s because two weeks ago the U.S. sent 61 Haitians back to Haiti – and three turned out to be infected with the new coronavirus.

Haiti has so far reported fewer than 60 COVID-19 cases. But the letter points out its threadbare health system is “dangerously unprepared to a respond to a pandemic” that the deportation flights could add to.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, said it cannot confirm or deny a flight is going to Haiti this week. The U.S. has been criticized for deporting COVID-infected people to other places in Latin America and the Caribbean, like Guatemala.

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Tim Padgett is the Americas editor for Miami NPR affiliate WLRN, covering Latin America, the Caribbean and their key relationship with South Florida. He has reported on Latin America for almost 30 years - for Newsweek as its Mexico City bureau chief from 1990 to 1996, and for Time as its Latin America bureau chief in Mexico and Miami (where he also covered Florida and the U.S. Southeast) from 1996 to 2013.