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6601: Those U.S. Deportees in Haiti (fwd)
From: Guy Antoine <GuyAntoine@windowsonhaiti.com>
During my recent trip to Haiti and the Dominican Republic, I went to
a prison in Leogane to visit U.S. Haitian deportees and the miserable
conditions they are thrown into. Another heart-rendering experience:
first the encounter with Haitians in the Dominican bateys, then with
Haitians in the Dominican coffee plantations, and finally with Haitians
in Haitian jails for having been deported by the U.S., according to
extremely racist, cynical, and cruel immigration statute (Anti-Terrorist
Act) which allows them to deport any non-U.S. citizen who had been
convicted of petty crimes (such as selling marijuana or stealing) literally
years (try twelve or even twenty!) AFTER those people paid their
debts to society by serving time in U.S. jails.
Many of these people were recently leading productive lives and
they were snatched away from their families (wives, husbands, children)
and sent to a detention center in the U.S. where most stayed for months
(four, five, etc) and then sent to Haiti. Many of these people have no
family whatsoever in Haiti, and many do not even speak Krey˛l. Some
were NOT EVEN born in Haiti.
They may have been born in the Bahamas or one of the surrounding
islands. And though the U.S. is responsible for sending to Haiti the
largest contingent of deportees, other countries are following suit. I
visited a 19 year-old from Guadeloupe, born there of Haitian parents,
was convicted of some minor crime, and then got deported to Haiti
that he is getting to know for the first time in his life. As Michelle
Karshan related to me: "He served eight months in jail in Guadeloupe
and then the French government put him in an Air France plane with
a group of refugees and deported him to Haiti where he was held in
jail for five months until I finally convinced the police to let me sign him
out under my responsibility. Her aunt in Guadeloupe doesn't even know
what happened to him! He is still in shock having come from a luxury
island to Haiti. He is still 19 years old and really needs to be living in
a family setting."
He does have a real name, but he prefers to be called Guadeloupe.
He was put in a village home, and as I heard him say, everyone in the
village looks at him as though he just descended from Mars. At least,
he received a break, having been rescued by Chans Altenativ, where
he is given some assistance to learn how to adjust to his new environment.
The guys I saw in the Leogane jail were not so lucky. They had just
been let out to take a shower and to breathe in some fresh air from 10
days of "darkroom isolation" (my characterization) for a fight that flared
between themselves, in what must have looked like the beginning of a
mutiny, but was borne out of plain frustration over their abrupt and unfair
separation from their families back in the U.S. They were placed, at
least a dozen per dark and narrow cell, with no sanitary facilities, meaning
you eat where you defecate. Those guys were EXTREMELY bitter
about the U.S. Who among us can blame them? Perhaps only those
who have never broken any law. Let them speak now.
But from what I hear there were even more horrible conditions than
those at this Leogane prison. If those guys continued to vent their
frustrations as loudly as they did, they could be sent dor detention
in Port-au-Prince. They just did not realize how "lucky" they still
were. Ask, but no... she is dead already, the young lady who got
separated from her small kids in the U.S. and spent her last few days
on the floor of her Port-au-Prince jail cell, suffering from stomach
cramps, and denied any medical care. She did not last long at all.
Those guys were bitter about their conditions in Haiti, but they seem
more understanding of the Haitian government which has no physical
and human resources to handle them and to process them. Some of
them do have psychiatric problems, some of them are diabetic and
desperately need insulin, many of them DO die in jail for lack of proper
care. The U.S. keeps deporting them to Haiti systematically, and all
U.S. citizens should be ashamed of their government that allows this
HORROR to take place in the 21st century.
Many of them have worked 10, 20, even 30 years, and will NEVER
see their Social Security checks and other employment benefits. It is
a crying shame.
The Haitian government seems to have no resources to handle the
influx of U.S. deportees, some of them in need of medical care, most
in need of psychological counseling. A few of them could even be
hardened criminals. A good many of them no longer have family ties
to Haiti (and the prison system depends on family members to feed
the incarcerated). To keep the current system is a grave injustice.
To let everyone loose as they arrive in Haiti would constitute a loss
of proper control for the government of Haiti, and a serious handicap
for both the resource poor Haitian people and the deportees themselves.
So what to do? Chans Altenativ is a good starting point, and Michelle
Karshan should be commanded for her efforts. She brings rice, cooking
oil, and whatever food staples she can afford to the jailers, so the U.S.
deportees, especially those without any other contact in Haiti, can eat.
She also brings them books to read, and it was quite a sight to see those
people converge on a pile of English language books, looking for a title,
an author, or a topic, anything that would offer a moment of evasion
from their isolation in jail in a country that they left oh so many years ago,
and for some, a country that they never knew. That seemed to sum up
the definition of a cruel and harsh punishment, courtesy of the U.S.
But what else can we do, in concrete terms? I would love to hear your
Guy S. Antoine
Windows on Haiti