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#3440: Jesse Jackson assails U.S. policy toward Haitians - FWD (fwd)


Jesse Jackson assails U.S. policy toward Haitians

CHICAGO -- (AP) -- As the debate over Elian Gonzalez's fate rages on, the 
Rev. Jesse Jackson and two members of Congress are trying to draw attention 
to what they say the Cuban boy's case demonstrates -- the United States' 
unequal policies toward Cuban and Haitian refugees.

The civil rights activist was joined Tuesday by Reps. Major Owens, D-N.Y., 
and Al Hastings D-Fla., two black members of Congress who list Haitians among 
their constituents.

The three said the U.S. government's treatment of black Haitian refugees is 
racist and amounts to a double standard because Cuban refugees who reach the 
U.S. are allowed to stay while illegal Haitian immigrants usually are 

The 1966 Cuban Readjustment Act offers those who flee the Communist island 
nation safe haven once on U.S. soil, but Haitians and others who enter the 
country illegally are sent back unless they can prove a ``credible fear'' of 
persecution in their homeland.

That law gives ``preferential treatment'' of Cubans and reflects how better 
organized politically they are than Haitians, said Jackson, head of the 
Chicago-based Rainbow/PUSH Coalition.

Jackson said he met Tuesday with 20 Haitian refugees who have been denied 
citizenship by the Immigration and Naturalization Service, including children 
born on the U.S. Navy base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

``They are in a sense, people without a country,'' Jackson said. ``We need to 
look at the disparity between U.S. policy for Cubans and for Haitians.''

Hastings, who represents the Tallahassee, Fla. area, agrees.

``Is there disparate treatment?'' he asked. ``Of course there is.''

Owens, who said he represents about 10,000 Haitians in Brooklyn, N.Y., 
announced plans to introduce legislation next week that would automatically 
grant citizenship to any illegal immigrant child under age 12 who reaches 
U.S. soil without parents.

Owens' proposal, which is similar to legislation recently introduced by Sens. 
Bob Graham, D-Fla., and Connie Mack, R-Fla., also would prohibit the 
deportation of any illegal immigrant parent of an American-born child under 
age 18.

``Instead of playing political football with the individual cases, it is 
important that we treat all immigrant families equal,'' Owens said. He called 
the debate over the fate of the 6-year-old Gonzalez a glaring example of 
inconsistency in U.S. immigration policy.

Gonzalez, who was removed Saturday from his great-uncle's home in Miami, had 
been staying there since his rescue from the Atlantic Ocean last November. He 
has been reunited with his Cuban father but they remain in the U.S. while a 
custody battle over the boy plays out.

Jackson said lawmakers also should reconsider the economic embargo that was 
imposed against Cuba shortly after Fidel Castro led a takeover of that 
country's government some 40 years ago.

``If we can relate to China, we can relate to Cuba,'' Jackson said. ``They 
are no threat to us ideologically or militarily. This policy is outdated.''