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#1831: Haitians in Miami protest over US immigration policy (fwd)


Thursday, January 13 6:15 AM SGT 
Haitians in Miami protest over US immigration policy
MIAMI, Florida, Jan 12 (AFP) - 

Members of the Haitian community here held protests Wednesday at what
they claim is discrimination against Haitian would-be immigrants by the
US immigration service.The protesters said they opposed the different
treatment accorded undocumented would-be Haitian migrants who reach US
shores compared with the treatment given to Cuban migrants.Under accords
between the US and Cuban governments, any Cubans who succeed in reaching
the US coast are permitted to regularize their status as immigrants and
settle in the United States. Only Cubans intercepted at sea are
repatriated to Cuba.Illegal immigrants from Haiti, on the other hand,
are covered by no such intergovernmental accords, and are repatriated
even if they succeed in reaching land.
At Wednesday's demonstration, Marleine Bastien, representing the
Haitian-American Grassroots Coalition, said, "We are asking for an end
to the wet foot/dry foot policy" applied to immigrants from Cuba.
"We are asking (US Attorney General) Janet Reno to end that policy
because it's unfair, it's racist and it's biased. It discriminates
against Haitians."
The demonstration was held as the case of Cuban boy Elian Gonzalez
continued to provide headlines here. Reno on Wednesday upheld a ruling
by the US Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) which found that
the boy's father has exclusive custody rights over his son, and that the
boy should therefore return to Cuba.The INS decision, announced last
week, has prompted vocal protests from sections of the Cuban community
here who oppose the government of Cuban President Fidel Castro. They
argue that the boy should be allowed to settle in the United States,
where he also has relatives.Bastien said that Florida's Haitian-American
community, which is some 350,000 strong, is "not satisfied with the
behavior of some of our elected officials" who she said have lobbied for
Elian to remain in the United States, ignoring repatriations of
Haitian children.And she noted that on January 3, the Coast Guard began
deporting 389 people, including some children, to Haiti, after a boat
carrying them illegally from Haiti to the United States ran aground on
New Year's Day.Four expectant mothers who had traveled from Haiti on
that boat were allowed to remain behind in Miami. One of them, Yvena
Rhinvil, was allowed to lodge an application for political asylum in the
United States, but her two children,ten-year-old Marc and eight-year-old
Germaine, were nevertheless repatriated pending a ruling on their
mother's case, Bastien said."Historically the Cubans have been treated
better than the Haitians," she said, citing also a case last summer when
six Cubans intercepted off the coast north of Miami were permitted to
stay in the United States as a result, she said, of protests by
Cuban-Americans here.