The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals recently denied the petitions for deferral of removal under the Convention Against Torture (“CAT”) by Wilerms Oxygene, a Haitian immigrant who, together with his family, entered the United States in 1994 after fleeing from political violence in his country. His family had experienced being the target of death squads, who fired on their family house while they were inside. In 1996, the United States granted him lawful permanent resident status.
However, In 2001, Oxygene was convicted by a Virginia court for a series of state crimes, which included grand larceny, burglary, robbery, and use of a firearm for a felony charge. As such, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) initiated removal proceedings against him. While Oxygene conceded that his previous criminal offenses qualified him for removal, he applied for deferral of removal under the provisions of the CAT.
Appearing in court before an Immigration Judge (IJ), Oxygene related his family’s experiences in Haiti and expressed fears over facing indefinite detention in a Haitian prison, where he said he would not receive the proper medical care needed to prevent his latent tuberculosis from activating itself. Both he and his sister testified that they had no family in Haiti who could support them by providing food, medicine, or payment to release him from detention. Records from the State Department, which Oxygene presented to substantiate his contentions, show the deplorable conditions in Haiti’s prisons. The IJ also recognized that the “record evidence even indicates that there have been some incidents of mistreatment of Haitian prisoners so severe as to constitute torture.”