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#395: Haitians protest treatment by U.S. immigration (fwd)


Haitians protest treatment by U.S. immigration
 04:25 p.m Sep 03, 1999 Eastern  By Patricia Zengerle 

MIAMI, Sept 3 (Reuters) - Scores of Haitians protested outside a Miami
immigrant detention centre on Friday at what they said is the unfair
treatment of their countrymen compared to the way U.S. officials treat
immigrants from other nations, particularly Cuba. Holding signs reading,
``Freedom yes, deportation no,'' and chanting and singing, about 150
people demonstrated for the immediate release of two Haitians, who have
been in Immigration and Naturalisation Service (INS) custody for  
months, as well as others held across the country. They also demanded
repeal of a tough 1996 U.S. law requiring deportation of immigrants who
commit crimes, even years after  they complete their sentences, saying
it is applied differently to different groups. In Miami, there have been
high-profile cases in which Cubans convicted of felonies have been
released from INS detention in spite of the 1996 law designed to rid the
United States of foreign-born criminals. Washington does not have
diplomatic relations with Havana that would allow repatriation.      
Advocates for the Cubans say release is the only humane alternative to
indefinite detention because they cannot be sent back. But this has
infuriated other immigrant communities. ``We are ... asking for the 1996
law to be repealed because it  is unfair to blacks and to Haitians,''
Marleine Bastien, presidentof Haitian Women of Miami and an organiser of
the demonstration, said. ``...It is practically refugee cleansing.''   
Helena Tetzeli, an attorney for Ralph Richardson, one of two people
whose cases prompted Friday's protest, said  Richardson would have been
released already if he were Cuban. `Oh yeah, absolutely, and you can
quote me on that,'' she said.``He would have been released a long time
ago.'' ichardson, 33, was running a successful cleaning business in  
Georgia when he was picked up at Miami International Airport  in 1997
when he returned from a two-day trip to Haiti.  The trip -- for a
memorial mass in memory of his father -- was Richardson's only visit to
his homeland since he moved to the United States at the age of two.    
But Richardson had never become a citizen -- family members said he did
not realise he was not born in the United States until he prepared for
his trip to Haiti -- and he was taken into INS custody because he had
been arrested on drugs charges several years earlier. Richardson's
lawyers have been waging a legal battle with the INS to stop his
deportation ever since, arguing that he is a father and contributor to
society who has turned his life around and is being held unfairly at
taxpayer expense. INS officials declined to comment on specific cases,
but denied the agency discriminates. ``We certainly don't discriminate
when it comes to nationality,'' said Maria Elena Garcia, an INS     
spokeswoman in Miami. In the other case the protesters focused on, the
INS is holding Fredeline Dauphin, a 24-year-old mother of three, who has
lived in the United States since she was eight years old. Dauphin was
jailed for 18 months in connection with what relatives said was a
violent fight with her boyfriend, and then taken into INS custody.
Advocates said Dauphin is a U.S.citizen, but INS officials say case does
not meet the legal standards granting citizenship to the children of
naturalised citizens.