No one can argue with the removal of dangerous criminals. That is why grounds of removability for serious crimes are in the law.
But when the US effectively dumps hundreds of people, especially thugs convicted of “homicide, rape, sexual assault, robbery, sex offense against children,” and other dangerous crimes on a devastated country that cannot handle them, that presents a potentially serious problem for everyone. Yesterday, in a carefully worded statement ICE announced it would begin doing just that.
Let me be clear, this is not an objection to the removal of dangerous criminals and drug dealers. Rather I question whether the U.S. is living up to its moral and ethical responsibility to alleviate the suffering of the Haitian people. And, at a minimum, not to make matters worse in Haiti by burdening a devastated country with still more problems. It is precisely this obligation which lead the USCIS, in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake, to implement Temporary Protected Status for Haitians and suspend deportations.
But it’s only been a year. Is Haiti ready? What will happen once violent offenders are released to the streets of Port au Prince? Will they be refouled only to prey upon the thousands of Haitians whose families and homes have been destroyed? Will the government of Haiti, to the extent that it is able to offer its citizens very limited services, be able to cope with the return of dangerous criminals?
To be sure, there is a delicate balance to be struck. The Department of Homeland Security’s primary obligation is to keep America safe. And some of those targeted for removal may be amenable to release in the U.S. at some point, just like any other criminal who has completed his sentence. But right now America is in a better position to deal with them than is Haiti. If DHS starts implementing its deportation plan, we are entitled to know what safeguards will be put in place to ensure safe integration of the deportees and protect the Haitian people, in a country still ravaged by last year’s earthquake and the consequent health and structural disasters.
As Americans we deserve to know that our government is not going to make a horrible situation worse.