Human Rights Clinic Testifies at Inter-American Commission on Human Rights Hearing on Stopping Deportations to Haiti

Human Rights Clinic students Clayton Oates, Gabrielle Thomas, Megan Williams, and the Clinic's Acting Associate Director, Denisse Córdova Montes, recently traveled to Los Angeles to participate in the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights' thematic hearing on the rights of Haitian migrants in the U. S.
Human Rights Clinic Testifies at Inter-American Commission on Human Rights Hearing on Stopping Deportations to Haiti
L-R Gabrielle Thomas, Denisse Córdova Montes, Megan Williams, and Clayton Oates

The hearing was the culmination of the Human Rights Clinic team's yearlong work to document human rights violations implicated in the U.S. deportation of Haitian nationals and builds on prior work done with the Immigration Clinic and partner organizations, including Alternative Chance, Haitian Bridge Alliance, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, and the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School Transnational Legal Clinic.

The hearing highlighted the United States' persistence in deporting Haitian nationals with criminal convictions, despite full knowledge of the grave risks to life, personal security, health, and well-being. Advocates outlined human rights violations confronting Haitians deported from the U. S., including unlawful detention by the Haitian government, torture, and persecution.

"After spending months documenting the human rights violations faced by individuals deported to Haiti and their families in the U.S., it was very cathartic to present their stories before the commission and for the commission to express its interest in working to address these violations," said Oates. "I am extremely grateful for all of the hard work that my team and our partners have put in to make sure that the voices of Haitians can be heard and acknowledged at an international level."

In a letter, which gathered 135 signatories, addressed to President Joe Biden and Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas on the anniversary of the devasting 7.0 magnitude earthquake that struck Haiti in 2010, the human rights activists specifically urged the White House and the DHS to stop deportations of individuals with past criminal convictions or criminal charges to Haiti amid a humanitarian, political, and security crisis. 

The letter's content is based on information compiled in a report created by the Human Rights Clinic in collaboration with partner organizations. The report highlights the personal stories of Haitian nationals recently deported by the U. S. and imprisoned in Haiti. Individuals held in prisons upon their arrival are deprived of the most basic necessities and are met with retaliatory physical violence and threats of death by prison guards. The report also called attention to the deadly nature of U. S. deportations to Haiti through the story of 40-year-old Haitian national Roody Fogg, who died a preventable death from cholera-like symptoms in Haiti's National Penitentiary October 10, 2022. 

"Alongside our partners, we argued that systematic racism is at the root of this immigration crisis," said Thomas. "In 1808, the U.S. abolished the transatlantic slave trade, but the interviews we conducted showed us that the barbaric practice of tearing families apart, contrary to international law, continues today through the United States' broken immigration system."

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