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#1850: Disparate rules stoke Haitian anger (fwd)


Disparate rules stoke Haitian anger _______By Deborah Sharp USA TODAY

 MIAMI -- In a case that has sparked protests of U.S. policies toward
Cuban and Haitian immigrants, two children who had been sent back to
 Haiti after being caught trying to reach the USA will be allowed to
live  here with their mother, authorities said Thursday.  U.S. Rep.
Carrie Meek said Attorney General Janet Reno agreed to allow  the
children to be with Yvena Rhinvil, who was one of 411 people in a      
boat that ran aground New Year's Day about 2 miles off the south Florida
coast.  Rhinvil and three others were brought ashore for medical
reasons. The rest were returned to Haiti,including Rhinvil's 10-year-old
son and 8-year-old daughter.''This decision ends a frightening episode
and addresses a major wrong that was done to this mother and her young
children,'' Meek said Thursday. But a sizable number of Haitians in
Miami believe the decision ends nothing. They see the ruling as the
latest example of an unjust immigration policy that treats Cubans better
than Haitians.
''There are so many inequities between the Cubans and everyone else,''
  Haitian activist Gepsie Metellus says. ''It's flagrant, it's
disrespectful, it's  alienating and it's frustrating. It makes you feel
as a human being that you're less, that you're not welcome.'' 
Exhibit A in the Haitian complaint is the transformation of young Cuban
refugee Elian Gonzalez into a celebrity while hundreds of Haitians,
 including children, were being summarily shipped home. Elian was
floating on an inner tube when he was rescued off the coast of         
Florida on Thanksgiving Day after a boat sank in an attempt to reach the
 USA. Elian's mother and stepfather and nine others died.  Elian is the
subject of a custody battle involving the U.S. government, Cuba and the
Cuban exile community. U.S. immigration policy treats Cubans differently
than all other refugees.Created during the Cold War, the Cuban
Adjustment Act of 1966 virtually  guarantees the right to remain to all
Cubans, except criminals, who make it  to U.S. shores from the Communist
Party-ruled island. U.S. officials have said Cubans are treated
differently because of the  oppressive political situation on the
island. But the disparity has heightened  resentment here over policies
many view as unjust.  ''On one hand, the (U.S. Immigration and
Naturalization Service) talks  about the importance of family and
returning Elian Gonzalez to his father in  Cuba. On the other, they
ignore the notion of family unity with this Haitian  family,'' says
lawyer Cheryl Little, whose Florida Immigrant Advocacy  Center is
handling Rhinvil's case.  Officials with the INS say they were not told
Rhinvil had children aboard  the stranded vessel before the youngsters
were sent home.  Elian, whose father in Cuba is fighting his relatives
in Miami's powerful  exile community for custody, has landed on the
cover of Time. Politicians  from President Clinton down have weighed in
on the case. In Miami, where Haitians are the second-largest group of
refugees after  Cubans, the difference in treatment seems most
glaring.   The extent of the divisions in Miami can be seen in recent
polls tracking  how different groups view the Elian Gonzalez case, and
in the
traffic-clogging protests that occurred after the INS decided to send
the  boy back. More than 90% of non-Hispanic whites, and 81% of blacks,
disapproved of the demonstrations, according to a poll by WLTV; 64% of
Hispanics supported the traffic-blockers. The differences were more
pronounced on whether Elian should go back to his father: Among blacks,
79% thought he should go home, as did 70% of whites. Only 10% of
 Hispanics agreed. 

Miami's Little Haiti was the site Wednesday night of a large, peaceful
protest that drew significant African-American participation. The two
 groups have not always gotten along, with economic and other tensions
in the past between American-born blacks and immigrants from Haiti.
Language is one divisive factor, as many Haitians speak French Creole.
But on the desire to change immigration policy, the groups spoke with a
single voice. ''The struggle is one,'' says Adora Obi Nweze, president
of the Florida state conference of NAACP branches. Signs reading ''Down
with Racism'' were carried by a sea of marchers wearing armbands of
blue-and-red ribbons, the colors of the Haitian flag.  More than 1,000
people paraded along Biscayne Boulevard -- some  shielding candles from
the breeze. A mock funeral was staged, with empty  coffins draped in
black to symbolize Haitians who have drowned trying to   reach U.S.
shores. ''I'm poor, but I'm traveling to my Father's house,'' went one
Creole hymn about reaching heaven. ''All the troubles in my world will
soon be over.''