AILA Doc No. 04030965 | Dated March 1, 2004
March 1, 2004
We write to you to express our concern about the escalating crisis in Haiti and our obligations under U.S. and international law to protect fleeing refugees. Earlier this week, you stated that we would "turn back any [Haitian] refugee that attempts to reach our shore." This policy is in flagrant violation of our legal obligations under the 1951 Convention and 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees. The United States has a historic commitment to protect refugees fleeing persecution. We urge you to honor our nation's obligations and ensure that such protection is available and effective.
As the political instability and violence continue in Haiti, we must prepare for a potential refugee crisis and respond in a manner that offers genuine protection. In the past, our government has implemented a series of harsh measures that undermine these standards when Haitian asylum seekers were involved. Such measures have included interdiction of Haitian boats with little or no screening for asylum; prolonged and arbitrary detention of Haitians if they do reach our shores; and expedited immigration hearings that have seriously undermined their ability to obtain representation and prepare their asylum cases.
In the current crisis it is clear that the United States should work with other nations to restore stability in Haiti and promote a peaceful solution to this crisis. It is equally clear that we have a legal and moral obligation to protect refugees forced to flee such conditions. We urge the Administration to take the following steps to ensure that Haitian refugees are protected and are not sent back to Haiti:
Protecting innocent civilians forced from their homes by this violent turmoil is an important cornerstone of our effort to restore peace and stability in Haiti. Our actions should make clear that the United States recognizes the severity of the situation in Haiti and is deeply concerned about the victims of this tragic conflict. We urge you to adopt the steps we have suggested, and we look forward to working with you and the Administration to meet our security concerns in a way that upholds our obligation to protect refugees.
With great respect and appreciation,
Cite as AILA Doc. No. 04030965.