Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=177523
Story Retrieval Date: 3/11/2014 4:28:28 AM CST
Following U.S. repatriation of 26 Haitian criminals, Haitians in Chicago said they think the deportations could threaten the safety of those already suffering from the country’s volatile political climate, cholera epidemic and slow-moving earthquake recovery.
For the first time since last year’s devastating earthquake, officials Jan. 21 announced they would deport the 26 Haitians convicted of crimes, as well as Lyglenson Lermoin, who was acquitted in 2007 of a plot to destroy the Sears Tower (now Willis Tower), according to published reports.
Haitian communities and advocates throughout the U.S. said it is inhumane to send criminals back to a country under such deleterious conditions. But Haitians here said their main concern lay with the natives who will live alongside those criminals, who, because of an unstable criminal justice system, could enjoy lax punishment upon their return.
A representative from a Florida-based law firm cited in published reports said criminal deportees are often held in “inhumane jail conditions in Haiti, not fed or provided medical care.” But Mercius Beaucicot, who moved to the Chicago area eight years ago, said the country’s prison systems are still in disorder and deporting criminals puts all Haitians in danger by essentially placing them back on the street – what he called an outright crime.
“I believe not only that it's a crime against Haiti, it's also a crime against humanity,” said Beaucicot, a producer for Haiti Jeunesse, a Chicago public-access TV show. “Not only does it send a bad message, but also we start to question whether or not we can count the U.S. as what we call our ally.”
Macdanne Edmond agreed.
Edmond and her husband, Patrick, own Exclusive Merchandise Mart Inc. on Howard Street in Evanston, a one-stop shop for international shipping, immigration-form assistance, French-to-English document translation and Haitian knickknacks.
Edmond returns to Haiti every year with i2Believe, a Chicago-based children’s education organization she helped launch after the quake. She said the conditions make her worry about what will happen to the deported criminals once they arrive in Haiti.
"I don't think the U.S. is doing a bad thing deporting them, I just wish they would protect the people in Haiti,” she said. “Once they let them go, will they be criminals over there?"
"You don’t even have a good prison to keep them in,” said the Rev. Hector Mardy of the New Hope Haitian Community Church in Evanston. “You will end up sending them where? In the street? Where they will kidnap, kill people?”
The American Civil Liberties Union has a different take on the situation, emphasizing the rights of the deportees.
In a news release last week, the ACLU called for the Obama administration to resume suspension of Haitian deportations as the country tries to recover from the earthquake that killed an estimated 316,000 last January.
“By deporting people to Haiti, which is in the midst of a raging cholera epidemic, the U.S. government is violating important human rights obligations to protect individuals from being returned to places where their lives or freedoms could be threatened,” said Howard Simon, executive director of the Florida ACLU in the statement. “Our government should not engage in the forced removal of people to any country where they would be subject to persecution or inhumane treatment.”
Jacques LeBlanc, treasurer of Chicago’s Haitian American Community Association, said the U.S.’s treatment of Haitians has been “purely discriminatory” and the crimes that led to prosecution of the 26 deported deserve a second look.
“I believe every single case should be re-evaluated before they make a quick decision on repatriation, considering that the situation is still terrible in Haiti,” he said.
For some local Haitians, the message the U.S. is sending by resuming deportations is alarming.
"I don’t think there is anything the U.S. can do for us,” Beaucicot said. “I believe now the only thing that can happen in Haiti is [for] Haitian people to finally know and see who's with then and who's not. Once they can figure that out, they will be able to take their own destiny.”