US deportees jailed in Haiti: NJ man taken from plane to prison – NorthJersey.com

Patrick Julney fears he will not live to see another day, and that he’ll leave this earth never being able to hold his wife — his high school sweetheart — or his three beloved stepchildren again.  
He is trying to survive in a Haitian prison that he describes as a hellscape, a tangle of starved, sick and unwashed men, 30 or more to a cell with no food, clean water or recourse.  
After his three-year battle to stay in the U.S., immigration authorities deported Julney on June 7. The longtime New Jersey resident has no memory of Haiti — his parents brought him to the U.S. as a toddler, and he does not speak Haitian Creole.
The day he was sent back to Haiti, Haitian police imprisoned him without explanation, and they have repeatedly contacted his wife demanding thousands of dollars for his release. He is being held in a prison system with conditions so poor that United Nations investigators say they amount to torture. Dozens of inmates have died this year from starvation.
“I’m being held for ransom in Port-au-Prince in a Haitian prison. It’s bad. Medical condition is bad. My ankles swollen, my legs swollen. I’ve been sick since I’ve been here. I have no help,” Julney said in a video taken in prison and shared by his family and attorney.
In the video, Julney points to a bucket in the corner that he says contains the men’s only supply of drinking and bathing water. With no room to lie down, he sleeps standing or sitting, which has worsened his legs, which were already swollen from high blood pressure. His jailers have not provided his asthma inhaler or blood pressure medicine. There is no food or clean water, except what visitors bring him with money provided by his wife.
Julney is not alone. In the past several months, Haitian police have detained a growing number of deportees and demanded money from their families, advocates said. These deportees are paying a disproportionate price for past crimes, condemned to one of the world’s most overcrowded prison systems. In Julney’s case, advocates fear it might be a death sentence.
Human rights groups and Haitian American organizations have pleaded with the Biden administration to halt all deportations to Haiti, including expulsions of Haitian refugees from the Mexican border. They say conditions are too dangerous in a country reeling from a collapse of government, widespread gang violence and food insecurity — a crisis that escalated after the assassination of Haiti’s President Jovenel Moïse one year ago and a more recent earthquake.
After his family moved to the United States, Julney’s parents died at a young age, said his wife, Laura McMaster. At age 12, he was homeless and living in Florida when his aunt in New Jersey brought him to live with her in Elizabeth. Julney enrolled in Elizabeth High School, where he and McMaster first met. He played football and she was a cheerleader, McMaster said. 
The couple, who dated on and off for years, were married by a Muslim cleric in 2020. Julney converted to Islam as a teen, and McMaster did so more recently.
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McMaster, who now lives in Glendora in Camden County, said she was attracted to Julney because he was outspoken and smart, and because of the way he drew attention when he walked into a room. They both like to read and play chess, she said.
Now, with Julney imprisoned in Haiti, McMaster is so gripped with intense worry that she has been unable to sleep at night.
Julney has been beaten, and bitten by rats, and he has chronic diarrhea, he told McMaster in messages.
“It’s just hard,” she said. “I live in fear every day. I just wake up and go to sleep not knowing if he’s OK.”
Julney, 38, was a legal resident of the U.S. but not a citizen. He was swept up by a U.S. policy to deport non-citizens convicted of a broad category of crimes. In 2010, he was found guilty of drug charges and of first-degree robbery in an Elizabeth home invasion. He has disputed his involvement in the robbery in court challenges.
While incarcerated at Bayside State Prison in Cumberland County, Julney got certified in operating a forklift and was a counselor to other detainees coping with addiction, said his attorney, Eleni Bakst, managing director of the Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights Coalition.
“He has really worked about to better himself,” McMaster said.
After Julney served nine years in prison, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement took him into custody. He was held in the Essex County jail and later the Bergen County Jail while awaiting deportation.
Julney spoke publicly about alleged abuses at the Bergen County Jail, including violence, lack of medical attention and extreme temperatures. When county jails ended contracts to hold immigration detainees, required under a new state law, some were released or transferred to upstate New York. Julney was sent far from his family, to a detention center in Louisiana.
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On the night of June 6, officers removed Julney from his cell. Hours later, he was put on a plane to Haiti. Bakst has continued to fight for his release and has pending cases before the Board of Immigration Appeals and the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to bring him home. Bakst amended filings to explain what has happened to Julney since he was deported and to report that he is growing ill in prison, and has no proper medical attention.
“We are trying to figure out a means of getting him out,” Bakst said. “We have described to different levels of courts that the conditions are not safe.”
When Julney landed in the Haitian capital, he went through processing by police and was fingerprinted, cleared and released. His uncle arrived to pick him up, but police stopped the car before they could leave, said Michelle Karshan, executive director of Alternative Chance, a support program for criminal deportees in Haiti that assisted Julney.
Officers said they had to detain him based on “orders from up high,” Karshan said. At the Delmas 33 detention center, the organization brought Julney food and medication, which his jailers did not provide.
Initially, Haitian police officers contacted McMaster and asked for $350 to start paperwork for Julney’s release, Bakst and McMaster said. Then two more officers asked for $1,500. Julney was transferred to the National Penitentiary, where guards have demanded $6,000 for his release.
Police officials have said the money is needed for paperwork to release him, McMaster said.
These are sums that McMaster, an emergency medical technician and mother of three, said she cannot afford. She is already paying $100 to $200 each week to make sure Julney gets food at the National Penitentiary.
Julney said two other deportees who were on his plane are imprisoned in Haiti with him.
“We’re in here for no reason, there’s no charges for us,” Julney said in a statement given to NorthJersey.com through his attorney. “No one’s been released yet. We can’t have done anything because we just came here. We didn’t even touch the dirt yet.”
The detained men are not alone in their predicament. Haiti routinely locked up criminal deportees until 2012 or 2013, when advocates and legal groups pressed American agencies to intervene, Karshan said. The Haitian government agreed to end the practice, although exceptions were made in some cases.
Then, reports emerged over the past four to six months that deportees from the United States were again being jailed upon arrival in Haiti, Karshan said. About 20 people are detained at the National Penitentiary, but she did not know how many are at police holding cells in other locations.
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Detention of deportees is barred under Haitian law, said Karshan, who likened what was happening to extortion. “I call that a kidnapping,” Karshan said about Julney’s case. “There’s no legal justification. They already processed him.”
The Haitian Embassy in Washington did not respond to requests for comment about the detention of deportees.
Julney cannot turn to Haiti’s justice system for help. Courts have been crippled by limited funding, strikes and violence, including a gang takeover of the main courthouse in Port-au-Prince. 
Rights groups, lawmakers and Haitian activists have been fighting to end deportations to Haiti, as well as expulsions of Haitian migrants who arrive at the U.S. border with Mexico.
Conditions are so dire in Haiti that the U.S. envoy to Haiti, Daniel Foote, resigned in September, writing that he did not want to be part of the “inhumane, counterproductive” decision to deport thousands there. The country, he wrote in a letter, was mired in poverty and faced terror from armed gangs and a corrupt government.
The assassination of the Haitian president and an earthquake in August that killed more than 2,200 people and destroyed more than 130,000 homes has further frayed a country already in turmoil.
Many Haitians hoped to seek asylum in the U.S. when the Biden administration took office. Instead, the administration had expelled more than 21,000 Haitians as of March, far more than prior administrations, according to the U.N. International Organization for Migration. Most were people who arrived in record numbers at the border with Mexico and were expelled under the controversial Title 42 public health order, denied the chance to seek asylum.
A smaller number, like Julney, are individuals affected by a 1996 law that makes immigrants with criminal convictions deportable, even years after they’ve served their sentences.
Activists say Biden has backtracked on his campaign promise to bring compassion to U.S. immigration policies.
“As a Haitian American, it makes me sad,” said Bergson Leneus, an activist with the relief group NJ4Haiti and a councilman in East Orange, home to a large Haitian community. “I cry when I see the outreach and support for other migrant groups. What makes them different? To return them to a country that is in total chaos, the way it is, is completely mind-blowing.”
Last week, the Biden administration said it would accept more Haitians via the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program and will resume a program that allows eligible U.S. citizens and legal residents to apply to bring family members from Haiti.
That’s no reprieve, however, for those who try to claim asylum at the border or people such as Julney, who have already been deported.
For McMaster, who has waited years for his release, this is the hardest struggle yet.
“It seems like an endless fight, and I don’t know if I can win this fight,” McMaster said. “I would just ask anyone to help us, because I don’t know how much more I can take mentally. But that’s my husband, and I’m willing to fight to the end.”


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