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#3405: Deportation: A tale of two kiddies (fwd)
From: Rosann Clements <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Deportation: A tale of two kiddies
By MILDRADE CHERFILS
Web-posted: 10:43 p.m. Apr. 29, 2000
MIAMI -- Haitian activists made a desperate plea Friday on behalf of a
6-year-old Haitian girl facing deportation and about 5,000 other U.S.-born
Haitian-American children whose parents could be deported under current
Sophonie Telcy, wearing a pink dress and matching socks, stood in front
of television cameras, but was reluctant to speak.
"My mother died in Haiti," the girl said in her native Creole.
When encouraged by advocates fighting to keep her in the United States
to say more, the shy kindergartner was silent. Her supporters decided to use
the media as a last-ditch effort to reach out to politicians to save the
child from an "uncertain future" and call attention to "disparate"
Sophonie's situation "really shows the disparate treatment that Haitian
refugees and Haitian families have been subjected to for years," said
Marleine Bastien, head of Haitian Women of Miami.
Sophonie's mother died in April 1999 soon after bringing the child to
Florida. Sophonie's mother, Sana Remelus, dropped the girl off at a friend's
home after having secured illegal documents to fly to Florida a few weeks
Remelus didn't tell her friend, Henry Smith, a construction worker, she
was ill and planned to return to Haiti. A few weeks later, Smith learned
Remelus had passed away.
Sophonie's father, Louis Junel Telcy, is said to live in Haiti, but
neither Smith nor Hastings' office has had any luck contacting him.
U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Miramar, has asked Congress to grant
citizenship to Sophonie, who now lives in Lake Park with Smith and his wife,
Janine Bolivar, a hotel maid.
Bolivar, 28, sobbed when she tried to explain that Sophonie has no
health insurance and that it is she who has to pay for the girl's medical
care in addition to caring for her other young children -- ages 5, 4, and 6
Advocates said Sophonie's situation, though different, is more desperate
than that of the Cuban 6-year-old, Elián González, who was plucked from the
ocean on Thanksgiving Day while lashed to an inner tube after his mother and
her boyfriend died crossing the Florida Straits.
Attorney General Janet Reno has gone to great lengths to reunite Elián
with his father and should extend some help to allow Sophonie to stay in the
the United States, the girl's supporters said.
Sophonie's advocates also said the special treatment Cubans who land in
the United States receive is discriminatory.
Based on the Cuban Readjustment Act of 1966, Cubans who reach U.S.
shores are usually allowed to stay. Haitians and others are usually
repatriated to their countries, unless they can prove a "credible fear" of
Besides Sophonie, about 5,000 other children are facing a tough
predicament, immigration activists said.
The Haitian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act, signed into law on Oct.
21, 1998, provides immigration benefits and relief from deportation to
certain Haitian nationals who have been living in the United States since
December 1995. The act allows them become permanent residents, while waiving
many of the usual requirements.
However, some people who entered the country illegally with false
documents are barred from applying.
"These refugees were running from an intolerable situation after the
coup that toppled former president Jean Bertrand Aristide and left thousands
dead," Bastien said. "These bona fide refugees had to flee which ever way
But unless a waiver is granted, the Haitians who arrived with fake
documents have violated the immigration laws under the current policy.
"We don't need psychologists to tell us that deporting the mothers and
fathers of these children ... would destroy the lives of these children,"
said immigration attorney Steve Forester.