OAS Fights U.S. Deportation of Convicted Drug Dealer With AIDS, Argues That Life-Saving Drugs Unavailable in Native Jamaica
The Organization of American States' human rights division is requesting that the U.S. refrain from deporting an HIV-positive Jamaican-born legal U.S. resident while the government considers her claim that deportation infringes on her basic right to life, the New York Times reports. Andrea Mortlock of New York was convicted in 1987 of selling cocaine and has been fighting deportation for 10 years, and she says a return to her native Jamaica would be "tantamount to a death sentence" because she would not have access to lifesaving antiretroviral treatment and would face discrimination. Mortlock was taken into custody on Aug. 11 and is being detained for deportation in New Jersey's Passaic County jail. In an affidavit to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Gabriela Rodriguez-Caprio, Mortlock's doctor, wrote that medications, nutritional supplements and growth hormones that prevent the progression of the disease are unavailable in Jamaica and "her missing these medications will lead to rapid progression and death." However, federal authorities say Mortlock's illness is not being taken into consideration in the proceedings. "It is our legal obligation to carry out a removal order that has been issued by a federal judge," Tim Counts, a spokesperson for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said, adding, "That is our job, and that is the only motivation for moving forward on this removal."
Mortlock, who is a recovered drug user with a history of petty larceny, was released in March 2003 over government objections after spending almost three years in immigration detention. The Jamaican consulate in New York would not issue travel documents for her, citing a lack of medical care for AIDS in Jamaica. Federal lawyers in court filings threatened to sanction Jamaica, blamed Mortlock for revealing her AIDS status and "vigorously opposed" her release from immigration detention centers in Pennsylvania and Texas. However, Mortlock's lawyers argued that indefinite detention -- more than six months -- is unconstitutional unless the detainee is dangerous (Bernstein, New York Times, 8/27).