In a major win late last week, advocates with Haitian Bridge Alliance and UndocuBlack Network were successful in stopping a number of deportation flights to Haiti, including the deportation of a number of asylum-seekers who could be witnesses in an investigation into horrific Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) abuses.
But by Monday, the flights had resumed. The Guardian reports ICE deported at least 72 people to Haiti, including nearly two dozen children. In a letter that day to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, outraged members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) slammed the deportations, writing they’re “gravely concerned that ICE is disparately targeting Black asylum-seekers and immigrants for detention, torture, and deportations.”
“Many of these members of our communities are reportedly coerced and abused in for-profit detention facilities,” CBC members wrote, “such as the Winn Correctional Center in Winnfield, Louisiana, then abruptly flown by ICE Air chartered aircraft to countries where they cannot safely return (e.g. Cameroon, Ethiopia, and Haiti), even while their legal challenges to their removals are pending.”
Indeed, The Guardian reported last week that among people on the deportation flights stopped last week were asylum-seekers who could be witnesses in horrific allegations of torture by agents, including the forcible signing of deportation documents. While President Joe Biden signed an executive order rescinding a policy by the previous administration putting just about any undocumented immigrant at risk of deportation, The Guardian newly reports the deportations to Haiti are happening under the Stephen Miller public health order that the Biden administration has so far kept in place.
“We are also concerned that these deportations were facilitated by a dubious, last-minute agreement to entrench the Trump administration’s immigration policies,” CBC members continued in their letter, pointing to a document signed by ICE’s union and the previous administration’s unlawfully appointed DHS deputy, anti-immigrant loudmouth Ken Cuccinelli. The document, signed the day before Biden’s inauguration, purports that the union representing mass deportation agents has immense veto power over policies implemented by Biden.
“The terms of that agreement grant NIC 118, the union representing thousands of ICE employees, extraordinary powers to delay changes to immigration enforcement policies and practices,” CBC members wrote. “If the whistleblower’s report is correct, you have until February 17, 2021 to exercise your authority under 5 U.S.C 7114(c) to disapprove this contract, thereby preventing it from taking effect, and restore the department’s power to set immigration enforcement policies and priorities.”
Ending that agreement signed into place by a racist, unlawfully appointed official with the previous administration should be a given. So should Mayorkas using his authority to halt deportations and return wrongfully deported people like Paul Pierrilus, members said. Pierrilus was deported to Haiti even though he’s not even from there. A letter from 120 law experts was previously sent to Mayorkas urging him to exercise his authority to stop deportations, writing that “[i]t is well-established that DHS has prosecutorial discretion and authority to decide how to use its enforcement resources.”