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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 

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 
the boat.


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 
12-year-old boy.

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.''