[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]


From: Rosann Clements <rosann@onemain.com>

By Noah Isackson
Tribune Staff Writer
April 26, 2000
One man looked down at the ground and said he would be killed within days of
being deported back to Haiti.
Another Haitian shook his fist and spoke of a desire to attend college, one
which he may never fulfill because he can't get a student loan without a
green card.
Ruth St. fleurose, 16, heard it all and then nodded her braided head in
agreement. Life has not been easy since St. fleurose fled Haiti with her
family nearly eight years ago.
Every day, she wonders whether they will be forced to go back. She also
wonders what kind of life she will have in the United States and what the
future will bring for her sisters, Rhode, 6, and Deborah, 3.
"It makes me sad more than angry," she said. "Some of my friends are talking
about going to college. I have no idea what the future will bring."
St. fleurose is among thousands of Haitians who fled to the United States,
starting in 1991, to escape violence after Jean-Bertrand Aristide was
On Tuesday, Rev. Jesse Jackson called several Chicago-area refugees together
to discuss their plight and highlight what he called a "disparity" between
the way the United States treats its refugees and immigrants.
As the nation has focused on the plight of Elian Gonzalez and for years
"bent over backward" to accommodate Cuban refugees, Jackson said, Haitians
refugees have been neglected.
After the coup, Jackson said, more than 40,000 Haitians were interviewed at
Guantanamo Bay, with only 10,000 meeting a "credible fear" asylum standard.
Many in this group gained legal immigration status but only temporarily.
Jackson called such a situation a "purgatory" that denied many Haitian
refugees--such as St. fleurose--the right to medical care, good jobs, and
"Right now, as a country, we are subsidizing Cubans to come in and shipping
Haitians out," Jackson told a news conference at Rainbow/PUSH headquarters.
"We should change our policy and measure human rights by one yardstick."
Cuban refugees who set foot on U.S. soil and legally apply for citizenship
are usually granted it, Immigration and Naturalization Service officials
Such is not the case for Haitians, and immigration experts estimate that
thousands of Haitians face deportation in the United States.
Jackson said such a situation reflects racism in U.S. immigration policy
that allows preferential treatment for Cuban refugees but not those with
darker skin colors from Haiti and elsewhere.
"If Elian sought citizenship today it would be granted," Jackson said. "At
this point we subsidize them and we ship Haitians out."
Some immigrant experts also argue that Haitians face an uneven application
of laws that benefits immigrants from countries whose governments are at
odds with the United States, such as Cuba.
"People all over the world are facing harsh, very harsh, situations because
of U.S. immigration laws and policies," said Mary Meg McCarthy, who provides
legal assistance to refugees at the Heartland Alliance's Midwest Immigrant
and Human Rights Center.
"The case of Elian Gonzalez has brought to light what a lot of people face,"
McCarthy said. "It's a legal limbo where people simply live in fear."