Following the tragic death of Wildrick Guerrier on January 22 following his deportation from the U.S. to Haiti, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organization of American States is urging the U.S. government to stop deporting people to Haiti who have serious illnesses. A press release from the Center for Constitutional Rights, Alternative Chance/Chans Alternativ, Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center, and University of Miami School of Law reads:

Today, in response to an emergency petition filed on January 6, 2011 by six rights groups, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) took a rare step and urged the U.S. government to cease deportations to Haiti immediately for persons with serious illnesses or U.S. family ties. The action follows the first reported death of a person deported by the U.S. since removals resumed on January 20, 2011. In its decision, the IACHR expressed concern that “detention centers in Haiti are overcrowded, and the lack of drinking water and adequate sanitation or toilets could facilitate the transmission of cholera, tuberculosis, and other diseases.”

The deceased, Wildrick Guerrier, 34, exhibited cholera-like symptoms but is believed to have received no medical treatment while in a Haitian police station cell in the midst of a cholera epidemic. A second deported person was reportedly exhibiting cholera-like symptoms and released without medical attention.

Guerrier, AP reported, “had participated in a hunger strike while detained in the U.S. and wrote to immigration attorneys that returning to Haiti amounted to a death sentence.” He may have been healthy when he arrived in Haiti, as AP earlier had reported

Immigration advocates complain that Haiti's notoriously unsanitary jails pose a grave risk for those sent back. They say Guerrier was healthy when he was deported before being crowded into a cell along with 17 other men.

The press release notes

Deportations from the U.S. to Haiti had been stayed on humanitarian grounds since the January 12, 2010 earthquake devastated Haiti.  Advocates and community members were shocked when, on December 9, 2010, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) unexpectedly announced that it was lifting the ban on deportations to Haiti for individuals with criminal records and would resume deportations in January 2011, just one year after the earthquake. On January 20, 2011, the U.S. resumed deportations to Haiti, deporting an estimated 27 people of Haitian origin, several of whom had not set foot in Haiti since they were young children.

And quotes Rebecca Sharpless, Director of the Immigration Clinic at the University of Miami School of Law as saying, “While detained in Louisiana, Wildrick Guerrier expressed grave concerns that he had no family in Haiti, that he had not been to Haiti for a very long time, afraid of what would happen to him in Haiti and of the cholera outbreak. He was right to be terrified.”

The timing of U.S. deportation resumptions, so close to the one-year anniversary of the earthquake suggests the possibility that perhaps a policy plan was already in place before the cholera outbreak, but, as with planned cut offs of emergency water aid distribution after one year by big NGO’s in Haiti, no changes were made to the plan despite the cholera epidemic.

The U.S. government is acutely aware of the dangers, but pushed ahead with deportations regardless. As Russia Today reported last month:

The very same day immigration officials resumed deportation of Haitian immigrants; the US State Department issued a travel warning against non essential travel to Haiti, warning Americans of continued high crime, limited police presence, lack of medical care and a cholera outbreak.

RT reported further, more than a week before Guerrier’s death, that

According to attorney Sunita Patel from the Center for Constitutional Rights, the deportations are a violation of the convention against torture and the UN Declaration of Human Rights.

“Sending someone back to a situation where they are likely to die or a situation where they are facing the possibility of death is potentially a violation of international law,” Patel explained.