Human Rights Organizations Testify Before Inter-American Commission on the United States Government’s Ongoing Abusive Practice of Deporting Individuals to Haiti

LOS ANGELES, MARCH 9, 2023 – Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights (RFKHR), the Haitian Bridge Alliance (HBA), Alternative Chance, the Transnational Legal Clinic at the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School, and the Human Rights Clinic at the University of Miami School of Law testified today before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) regarding the United States’ abusive practice of deporting individuals to Haiti. Representatives from the human rights organizations highlighted the United States’ practice of targeting Haitians for deportation, despite the extreme risks facing Haitian nationals upon their forced return, and called for an end to all Haitian deportations.

Advocates outlined grave human rights violations confronting Haitians deported from the United States, including unlawful detention by the Haitian government and serious threats to life, personal security, health and well-being.

“Today you will hear voice messages of Haitians who have been deported like Paul Pierrilus,” said Guerline Jozef, Co-founder and Executive Director of the Haitian Bridge Alliance. “After living in the United States with his family for over 35 years, Paul was detained without notice or warning at a regular ICE check-in and deported to Haiti, a country he was not born in and had never been to. The United States government can and must correct Paul’s wrongful deportation by reuniting him with his family.”

“The U.S. government took me from my family without warning, held me in ICE jails, and relentlessly attempted to deport me— until they finally did,” Paul Pierrilus said. “There isn’t a minute that goes by that I don’t fear for my life and safety. I live in limbo. I have missed countless birthdays, weddings, funerals. Because I am a person of Haitian descent, the U.S. government stole my life.”

“Paul Pierrilus’s wrongful deportation is emblematic of the targeted violence and abuse Black immigrants in the United States face at every juncture of the criminal legal and immigration systems,” said Daniel Tse, Co-founder of the Cameroon Advocacy Network, Director of the Black Immigrants Bail Fund, and Legal Fellow. “What happened to Paul happens to thousands of Black immigrants in the United States every day. I can attest to this fact, because I was also detained by the US immigration authorities for nine months when seeking protection after I fled my home country, Cameroon. Anti-Blackness and systemic racism have always been an inherent part of the US immigration system. What is different today is the urgent humanitarian crisis in which Haiti finds itself. Today, we ask the Commission to call on the United States to stop all deportations to Haiti and to recognize ongoing deportations to Haiti for what they are – inhumane, unconscionable acts of anti-Black violence.”

The Commission also heard from Patrick Julney’s wife, Laura McMaster, who described that her husband suffered from a complete lack of access to health care and dire prison conditions while detained illegally in Haiti’s National Penitentiary.

“Deportations by the U.S. to Haiti violates international human rights law by directly placing individuals at risk of torture, persecution, and irreparable harm,” said Denisse Córdova Montes, Acting Associate Director of the Human Rights Clinic at the University of Miami School of Law. “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.”

“We appreciate the Inter-American Commission’s recognition of the fundamental human rights of all migrants to protection from harm, and particularly the rights of Haitian nationals seeking protection from the humanitarian, political and security crisis that pervades Haiti,” commented Sarah Paoletti, Director of the Transnational Legal Clinic at the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School. “And we appreciate the call for the United States to provide accurate data as to the number of people seeking protection and those actually receiving protection, based on national origin, as a means of assessing the effectiveness of current U.S. immigration policies in providing access to asylum and other forms of humanitarian-based immigration relief. We look forward to continuing the dialogue with the Commission and the United States on how to ensure that the United States lives up to its commitments to uphold human rights and the rule of law in the United States and throughout the region.”


Media contacts

Amy Zelvin Reid, [email protected]

Emma Gillett, [email protected]

Paige Censale, [email protected]

About Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights

Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights is a nonpartisan, not-for-profit organization that has worked to realize Robert F. Kennedy’s dream of a more just and peaceful world since 1968. In partnership with local activists, RFK Human Rights advocates for key human rights issues, championing change makers and pursuing strategic litigation at home and around the world. And to ensure change that lasts, we foster a social-good approach to business and investment and educate millions of students about human rights and social justice.

About Haitian Bridge Alliance

Haitian Bridge Alliance (HBA), also known as “the Bridge”, is a grassroots community organization that advocates for fair and humane immigration policies and provides migrants and immigrants with humanitarian, legal, and social services, with a particular focus on Black migrants, the Haitian community, women and girls, LGBTQIA+ individuals, and survivors of torture and other human rights abuses. HBA also seeks to elevate the issues unique to Black migrants and builds solidarity and collective movement toward policy change. Anpil men, chay pa lou (“Many hands make the load light”). Follow us on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook: @haitianbridge

About the Human Rights Clinic at the University of Miami School of Law

The Human Rights Clinic at the University of Miami School of Law works for the promotion of social and economic justice globally and in the U.S. Students gain firsthand experience in cutting-edge human rights litigation and advocacy at the local, national, regional, and international levels. This includes engaging with the United Nations, Inter-American Court and Commission on Human Rights, European Court of Human Rights, African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and other tribunals. Focus areas include gender and racial justice, immigrant and Indigenous women’s rights and the rights to housing, health and food.

About the Transnational Legal Clinic

The Transnational Legal Clinic is part of the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School’s Gittis Center for Clinical Legal Education. Since its founding in 2006, students have represented individuals seeking asylum and other forms of immigration relief from across the globe and have worked alongside and on behalf of international human rights and community-based organizations before regional and international human rights mechanisms to address the human rights of migrants and internally-displaced persons.