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#1805: Do we even know the Rhinvil childrens first names? (fwd)
Haitians call for peaceful INS protests
Mom's plight contrasted with battle over Elian
BY AMY DRISCOLL
Mobilized by the plight of a Haitian woman separated from her children
under U.S. immigration policy, members of Miami's Haitian community
Monday called for peaceful protests to highlight the disparity between
U.S. treatment of Haitians and Cubans who flee their countries.
``We have nothing against any other immigrant group, let's be very clear
about that,'' said Jacques Despinosse, president of the Haitian-American
Democratic Club. ``All we are saying is equal treatment for all
immigrants. And that means Haitians as well as Cubans.''
The surge in activism comes at a time when many Haitians are becoming
increasingly troubled by the contrast between the huge outcry to keep
6-year-old Elian Gonzalez from being returned to Cuba while Haitian
children have been summarily sent back to their country.
In a news conference Monday, Haitian- and African-American groups
decried U.S. policy that they say unfairly turns back most Haitians
without a chance to request a hearing and determine whether they have a
``credible fear'' of persecution in their homeland.
They plan to hold a symbolic funeral Wednesday, followed by a silent
march through Little Haiti, in memory of those who lost their lives in
an ill-fated voyage from Haiti.
A total of 407 refugees, mostly Haitians, were turned away from the
United States on New Year's Day when their boat ran aground about two
miles off the Florida shoreline. Four women were brought to Miami for
medical treatment, including Yvena Rhinvil, now held in Krome detention
Her two children, ages 8 and 10, were repatriated to Haiti without her,
despite INS' efforts to keep families together. U.S. authorities said
they didn't realize Rhinvil had children with her when they took her off
Under U.S. immigration policy, anyone caught at sea is supposed to be
repatriated. For those Haitians who make it to land, establishing a
claim of political asylum can still be difficult because the U.S.
believes democracy has been established in Haiti.
Rhinvil, who is four months pregnant, is applying for political asylum,
a process that can take months. Her children, meanwhile, are back in
Port-au-Prince, living with an aunt.
``Freedom is meaningless to this woman without her children,'' said
attorney Cheryl Little, director of the Florida Immigrant Advocacy
Center, which is representing three of the four women from the boat.
In the New Year's Day incident, which marked the largest repatriation of
Haitians in more than a year, the immigrants were given cursory
interviews or none at all to determine whether they had credible claims
of political asylum, Little said.
``If returning Elian Gonzalez to Cuba is so important, then why is there
no consideration given to reuniting this mother with her children?''
Little asked. ``If keeping families together is as important as the INS
says, then why isn't this family together?''
At the news conference, led by PULSE (People United to Lead the Struggle
for Equality), activists said they have learned at least 20 Haitian
children were aboard the boat that was turned back. At least three were
unaccompanied, they said, including Rhinvil's two children and a
Although some politicians, including Miami-Dade County Mayor Alex
Penelas and U.S. Reps. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, R-Miami, and Carrie Meek,
D-Miami, have recently voiced support for the Haitian cause, activists
said it isn't enough.
``We demand that you fight with the same passion for the rights of all
refugees -- not just the ones that look like you,'' said the Rev. James
Phillips, president of PULSE. ``Here we are in the 21st Century, still
having to revisit the issue of disparate treatment.''