[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

#1689: Haitians Condemn INS Decision to Send Migrants Home (Warning: THE PHRASE) (fwd)


Haitians Condemn INS Decision to Send Migrants Home                
05:37 p.m Jan 03, 2000 Eastern  By Jim Loney 

MIAMI (Reuters) - Miami's Haitian community condemned on Monday a U.S.
government decision to repatriate hundreds of Haitian migrants to their
impoverished Caribbean homeland,calling U.S. immigration policy
``racist.'' Following two days of angry protests over the treatment of a
boatload of migrants from Haiti, activists pledged to step up     
pressure on Washington to change a policy that treats Haitian and Cuban
migrants differently.  The U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service
late on Sunday ordered a group of 407 Haitian, Dominican and Chinese
 migrants found crammed on to a grounded 60-foot (20 meters)freighter
off the Florida coast on New Year's Day sent back to Haiti. `We were
hoping that in the new millennium this country would  recognized the
rights of every person, black and white,'' said  Marleine Bastien,
president of Haitian Women of Miami. `But it seems they have decided to
continue their racist policy.''  Callers to Miami radio stations angrily
raised the case of Elian   Gonzalez, a 6-year-old Cuban boy who was
found floating on  an inner tube at sea on Thanksgiving Day and was
immediately brought to shore and turned over to relatives. ``The way INS
has treated Elian probably gave hope to other  people, especially
Haitians who have a tradition of going to sea to escape terrible
conditions at home,'' said Herntz Phanord, host of the Creole-language
radio program Haiti Antennes Plus on WLQY. ``We are being treated
differently for the reason of our skin color.''  Dozens of Haitians
staged a noisy demonstration at INS Miami headquarters on Monday
afternoon, waving blue-and-red Haitian flags along with the U.S. Stars
and Stripes and chanting ``We want justice.'' ``We may be black; we may
be poor, but we are human beings and we want to be treated like any
other human beings,''protester Philippe DeRose told reporters. The
demonstration followed protests by hundreds of Haitians and black
Americans in front of the Miami Beach Coast Guard station Saturday and
Sunday, scenes reminiscent of similar protests held by Cubans last June
when a group of Cuban  migrants was intercepted at sea off
Surfside.        But the results were dramatically different. The Cubans
were      allowed to come ashore, where U.S. immigration policy allows 
them to stay and apply for permanent residency. The Haitians  were
ordered returned home immediately, with the exception of   four women
taken ashore for medical treatment. `It was in accordance with U.S. law
and practice, the  repatriation,'' INS spokeswoman Maria Elena Garcia
Under U.S. policy, most Haitians seeking a better life in Florida    are
returned to their homeland, the poorest nation in the western hemisphere
with average per capita annual income of about $250. Cubans, on the
other hand, are governed by a policy known as ``wet feet/dry feet''
under which they are returned to Cuba if   they are intercepted at sea
but allowed to stay if they manage to  set foot on dry land.  ``I'd like
them to eliminate this wet foot/dry foot policy,'' Bastien  said. ``It's
not a question of Haitians and Cubans. It's a question of respecting
basic human rights.''  The differing treatment has long been a
contentious issue in   Miami, home to large Cuban and Haitian
communities.  INS officials said although the Haitians were ordered
returned to  Haiti, any who expressed fear of persecution on the voyage
 home would be interviewed by INS agents to determine if they had
legitimate claims for political asylum. Haitians also complained that
the U.S. government ignored its  own territorial waters when deciding to
send the Haitians back.  For most jurisdictional matters, the United
States claims water  up to 12 miles offshore as its territory. The
Haitians ran aground and were taken into custody just a mile
offshore.     ``This is just a way to discriminate against black people.
They   violate their own laws when it suits them,'' Bastien said.
''We      want the world to know the hypocrisy of this government.''