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Mass. Immigration Advocates Seeking To Stop Deportation Flight Bound For Haiti

UPDATE: Attorney Ira Alkalay tells WBUR that his client was removed from the deportation flight to Haiti Tuesday morning.

An aide for Sen. Elizabeth Warren said her office, along with Sen. Ed Markey's and Rep. Ayanna Pressley’s offices, made multiple inquiries with ICE on deportation of immigrants during the coronavirus pandemic, including to Haiti where there is not reliable, stable health care infrastructure. The aide also said the members of Congress communicated with the Haitian embassy to express concern about a deportation flight.

Immigrant advocates in Boston are trying to prevent a deportation flight bound for Haiti from taking off amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The flight is scheduled to leave Tuesday from a U.S. Department of Homeland Security facility in Louisiana, according to the Boston-based Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti and also attorneys with local clients being removed from the U.S.

The Haitian government closed the country's international airports last month to commercial flights. But federal immigration officials are still planning on deporting Haitian nationals, many of whom have been in detention facilities up until now.

Ira Alkalay, an attorney based in Fall River, has a client from Boston who's scheduled to be deported back to Haiti on Tuesday.

"I know that he has been in three different facilities in the last week and that there have been COVID-19 positives in all of those facilities," Alkalay said.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) states online that detainees undergo temperature screening before boarding flights.

Advocates contacted the offices of Senators Ed Markey and Elizabeth Warren, as well as Rep. Ayanna Pressley, asking for assistance in halting the plane bound for Haiti. Boston is home to the third largest Haitian diaspora in the country.

The lawmakers did not immediately respond to requests for comment from WBUR.

The island nation of Haiti is still rebuilding 10 years after a devastating earthquake and subsequent cholera outbreak crippled the country's infrastructure and already fragile health care system.

The Department of Homeland Security did not respond to a request for comment.

This article was originally published on April 06, 2020.

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Shannon Dooling Twitter Reporter
Shannon Dooling is an immigration reporter at WBUR, Boston’s NPR news station.

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