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#1858: 'My children are coming,' Haitian rejoices (fwd)
Published Saturday, January 15, 2000, in the Miami Herald
'My children are coming,' Haitian rejoices_______ BY AMY DRISCOLL
The nonstop grin on Yvena Rhinvil's face told the whole story Friday.
``My children are coming,'' she said, beaming. ``This is a great day
for me.'' She had just spoken by phone to her two children in Haiti for
the first time since immigration officials separated the family on
Jan. 1, mistakenly repatriating the children without their mother.
``I told them not to cry, not to worry, because they would be with me
soon. They were so happy to hear my voice,'' she said. Then she threw
her arms out wide, in an all-inclusive hug. ``It's like a dream for
me,'' she said. ``They are coming!'' The children -- Marc, 9, and
Germanie, 8 -- thought their mother had been kidnapped when she wasn't
on the Coast Guard cutter that returned them to Port-au-Prince last
week, along with about 400 other migrants. The group was stranded on New
Year's Day when their 60-foot boat ran aground about two miles off
Florida's coast during an attempt to slip into the U.S. under
cover of New Year's Eve festivities. Four women, including Rhinvil,
were brought to Miami for medical treatment while the others were
repatriated under current immigration policy. Rhinvil, who is four
months pregnant, said the conditions on the boat were terrible,
and she didn't have anything to eat. She found out her children had
been sent back to Haiti when she saw an article in the newspaper.
``I was feeling so sick, that's why I didn't even know where my kids
were,'' she said. ``I was in shock, I was afraid, and I didn't know what
was going to happen.'' Immigration officials said Coast Guard crew
members didn't realize Rhinvil had children with her when they took her
from the boat. If they had known, they would not have separated the
children from their mother, the officials said.
On Thursday -- one day after a mass protest by Haitian Americans in
Miami -- the Immigration and Naturalization Service granted humanitarian
parole to the two children for 90 days. Once they obtain Haitian
passports, a process likely to stretch into next week, they will be
flown to South Florida to join their mother. Rhinvil was released from
Krome detention center on Wednesday and has applied for political
asylum. She passed an initial interview and has been granted a full
asylum hearing. If her case is not decided by the time the children's
parole expires, the mother's attorney will apply for an extension.
``The most important thing is to reunite this family,'' said attorney
Cheryl Little, director of the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center,
representing Rhinvil. Little said the children, who are being cared for
by an aunt in Port-au-Prince, will be brought to Florida as quickly as
possible. ``We are worried for their safety in Haiti,'' she said,
refusing to elaborate.
CALLED AT NIGHT
Rhinvil and her children will live in Lauderdale Lakes with Rhinvil's
sister, who works in a factory. Rhinvil's uncle, who also lives in
Broward County, said he had no idea his niece and her children were
attempting to enter the United States until he received a call from the
hospital in the middle of the night. ``I pulled on my clothes -- Bam!
Bam! Bam! -- and rushed over there,'' said Edouard Rhinvil, a tailor.
``I was so happy. And now, with the children coming, this is even
better.'' When Rhinvil arrived, she was suffering from injuries she
sustained in a car accident that occurred shortly before she left Haiti.
But with medical treatment -- and the news that her children will be
allowed to join her -- she is on the mend. ``I couldn't eat. I couldn't
sleep because I was so worried,'' she said. Now that I know my children
are all right, I am feeling so much better.''