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#3732: Haitians seek immigration parity_ (fwd)


Published Saturday, May 20, 2000, in the Miami Herald 
 Haitians seek immigration parity_____By SARA OLKON 

 Gorvins Pierre, a shy, 15-month-old toddler tugging on his mother's
skirt, is one of an estimated 5,000 U.S.-born children of Haitians whose
families could be separated under current U.S. immigration policy.
 Gorvins, wearing his favorite Mickey Mouse T-shirt, stood among a crowd
of more than 500 protesters Friday afternoon outside the U.S.
Immigration and Naturalization Service building in Miami. Many
demonstrators marched more than 20 blocks down Biscayne Boulevard to the
building at 79th Street to demand equal treatment for all immigrant
groups. ``Politicians in Washington are very concerned about persons
fleeing communist countries, especially Cuba,'' said Cheryl Little, the
executive director of the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center. ``Cubans,
to their credit, have a lot of political clout. Unfortunately, the color
of the Haitians' skin has something to do with the way
 they have been treated over the years.'' Current policies generally
allow Cubans to remain in the United States if they
 reach land, while Haitians and others are often returned to their
homeland without asylum hearings. The Central American and Haitian
Parity Act, now pending in Congress, would make it easier for Haitians
who entered the United States illegally before 1996 to stay. Currently,
those who made it here with improper documentation are subject
 to deportation. For Gorvins Pierre, that could mean losing his mother,
Margorie Pierre, who has lived here since 1987 but doesn't have her
papers. She and her husband, Gorvy Pierre -- who is a citizen -- live in
North Miami and are expecting their second child next month. ``I would
like my son to go to the university to become a doctor,'' said Gorvy
 Pierre, a security guard for Miami-Dade County Public Schools. ``What
am I gonna do if they send my wife to Haiti?''Such fears propelled
Friday's rally. Protesters waved American and Haitian flags
 and yelled: ``No, no, no. We are not leaving. If we go, we will be
back. America belongs to us.'' Jean LaFortune, president of the
Haitian-American Grassroots Coalition, walking hand in hand with several
children, led a chant of ``Justice -- Now!''  Before the rally
officially began, organizers broadcast the Bob Marley song
 Survivor over loudspeakers. ``We are the survivors. Yes. The black
survivors. Some people got hopes and dreams. Others got ways and
means.'' Speakers at the rally were equally passionate. North Miami
Councilman Ossmann Desir asked Attorney General Janet Reno to treat
Haitian children with the same respect she had accorded Elian Gonzalez.
 ``It really breaks my heart see that families will be broken up when
there is a solution,'' said Leonie Hermantin, executive director of the
Haitian American Foundation. Sheila O'Farrell hung a sign on her dog's
back that read ``Haitians are treated like dogs.'' ``I think there's a
disparity between the way Haitians and Cubans are treated,'' she said.
``Haiti is more dangerous than