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#3295: Haitian orphan's story draws no crowds (fwd)


Haitian orphan's story draws no crowds
By Adrian Walker, Globe Columnist, 4/18/2000 
  This story ran on page A4 of the Boston Globe on 4/18/2000.

 MIAMI - Sophonie Telcy is 6 years old. Her mother died shortly       
after bringing her to America a few months ago. Sophonie has no     
desire to return to the country where she was born and, until recently,
 raised. Which in her case is Haiti.Sophonie Telcy has no cheering
sections outside the home of her  guardians, no television crews, and no
celebrities forming a human  chain on her behalf. No one has suggested
that her presence on these shores constitutes a miracle.In fact, almost
no one seems to care whether she stays or goes.Sophonie lives with
friends of her mother in Lake Park, Fla., a suburb of West Palm Beach
less than 100 miles from the Elian Gonzalez circus. She is subject to
deportation at any time. As surely as Elian has become the poster child
for resistance to the Castro regime in Cuba, Sophonie's few advocates
believe her fight with the government is just as symbolic - of what they
view as a glaring double standard in US immigration policy. ''Damn right
there's a race issue,'' says US Representative Alcee  Hastings, a Fort
Lauderdale Democrat. ''There's disparate treatment. The INS should not
be paying attention to organized political pressure.''The Elian soap
opera has gradually exposed every social fissure in South Florida. Among
the most enduring is resentment at the handling of Haitian immigration
compared to that from Cuba.Haitians are deported at a much higher rate,
turned around on the seas  more often, and have a more difficult time
getting residency status. The legal rationale for that is complicated,
but it hinges on the longstanding judgment that Cuban immigrants are
fleeing political persecution, whereas Haitians are economic refugees. 
Historically, it owes much to the Cold War, like the Elian battle
itself. The Duvalier regime that pillaged Haiti from 1958 until 1986 was
a client state of the United States, and its successors - some
democratic, some not - have also enjoyed Washington's support. Castro,
by contrast, was always viewed as the political rogue of the Caribbean.
The precedent of preferential treatment for Cuban exiles was established
inthe early 1960s and has been reinforced as Cuban Americans gained   
political power.'I knew there had to be other children, even in my
district, who were in the same situation as Elian, or worse,'' Hastings
said yesterday. ''In five days, we found 26 kids who are orphans.
Sophonie Telcy's situation is far worse than Elian's. She has no family
in Haiti, and the  government there has no policy for dealing with
orphans. She could end up living on the street if she has to go
back.''   Hastings has widely been accused of grandstanding for
suggesting that  the cases have anything in common. The local media have
largely     ignored him, which he attributes to a longstanding feud with
The Miami  Herald, which successfully crusaded for his removal from the
federal   bench in 1989.The distinction between political and economic
refugees seems far too pat to many Haitians and African-Americans here,
who note that Haitian refugees are also fleeing a political cesspool.
While Haiti has experimented with democracy, it is currently ruled by a
president, Rene Preval, who dissolved the Parliament early last year and
has yet to get around to setting a date for new elections. Just as many
Cuban families tell devastating tales of loss under Castro, many
Haitians have horror stories of the Tonton Macoutes, the bloodthirsty
state police force.Every lawless country is lawless in its own way, but
surely Haitians who risk everything for a life in America are not
fleeing poverty alone.The cases of Elian Gonzalez and Sophonie Telcy
share one thing in common: The federal government has not decided what
to do. It's
 curious, though, that the other elements they have in common seem to 
mean so little to so many here. For all the talk about freedom and   
human rights from the Elian brigade, Sophonie Telcy's asylum is a     
cause they don't seem to have time for.