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#1828: Haitians Seek Immigration Equality (fwd)
Haitians Seek Immigration Equality
.c The Associated Press
By MILDRADE CHERFILS
MIAMI (AP) - Haitian-American activists say the treatment of 6-year-old Elian
Gonzalez highlights an unfair disparity in U.S. policy toward would-be
immigrants from Cuba and their island nation.
Haitian-Americans and others staged a mock funeral Wednesday for some of the
more than 400 Haitians whose boat ran aground in Florida during a New Year's
Day attempt to reach the United States. Survivors told the Coast Guard that
as many as six people died during the 600-mile voyage and were thrown
The ceremony was followed by a candlelight march attended by about 3,000
The difference in how immigration officials treat Haitians and Cubans seemed
stark to protester Louisiane Valcourt, 60. ``They regard the Cubans as people
and the Haitians as animals,'' she said.
Under U.S. immigration policy, Haitians and others who arrive illegally are
sent back to their country. The Cuban Readjustment Act of 1966 and the
application of a so-called ``wet foot, dry foot'' policy allows Cubans who
walk ashore to stay in the United States.
But Haitians claim they are routinely sent back without being allowed to
request a hearing to determine whether they have a ``credible fear'' of
persecution in their homeland.
Jocelyn McCalla, executive director of the New-York based National Coalition
for Haitian Rights, said the U.S. disposition is ``illegal'' and ``absolutely
Protesters contrasted the international custody battle over Gonzalez - who
survived a Thanksgiving Day boat trip to the United States in which his
mother, stepfather and others drowned - with the plight of a pregnant Haitian
woman whose children were returned to Haiti this month while she remained in
the United States.
In the New Year's trip, Yvena Rhinvil, who is four months pregnant, was one
of four people brought to shore for medical reasons. But her children, ages 8
and 9, were among those sent back to Haiti, where they are living with an
U.S. officials said they weren't told Rhinvil's children were with her. ``If
we would have known that she had children on board, we would have brought the
children with her,'' said Coast Guard spokesman Luis Diaz.
The repatriation of the New Year's Day Haitian migrants is especially unfair
given the treatment of Gonzalez, many said.
``We're not asking the U.S. to open its borders indiscriminately,'' said
Leonie Hermantin, head of the Haitian-American Foundation. ``When people come
here making asylum claims, they should not be turned back without due
Copyright 2000 The Associated Press. The information contained in the AP
news report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise
distributed without prior written authority of The Associated Press.