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7721: Dying Woman's last wish (fwd)
From: leonie hermantin <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Published Saturday, April 28, 2001
A DYING WOMAN'S LAST WISH
Marie Leonie Gateau wants to see the man in Haiti she says is her son, but
U.S. authorities are skeptical.
BY ALFONSO CHARDY
REQUEST DENIED: Adeena Weiss looks down at Marie Leonie Gateau in Chicago.
An immigrant visa to Guy Robert Laguerre, 33, below, has been refused.
An elderly, terminally ill Haitian-American woman has been unable to obtain
an immigrant visa for the man in Haiti she says is her son because U.S.
authorities there doubt the relationship even though two of three DNA tests
showed the man probably is her child.
Caretakers for Marie Leonie Gateau, 76, who has lung and liver cancer, said
officials at the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince rejected her petition for an
immigrant visa for Guy Robert Laguerre, 33. Gateau has numerous illnesses in
addition to the cancer and, according to one doctor who has treated her, has
only months to live.
Adeena Weiss, 28, a Miami-born law student who is caring for Gateau in
Chicago, where Weiss is attending school, said rejection of the visa request
came in an e-mail from the embassy's consular section April 17. Gateau had
been Weiss' family housekeeper in Miami since 1973.
``This happened because the people involved are from Haiti and are black,''
Weiss said. ``If it were any other country, the visa would have been
Though U.S. officials in Miami and in Port-au-Prince would not comment on
the case, citing privacy issues, embassy letters and e-mails to Gateau's
caregivers show that consular officials in Haiti do not believe Laguerre is
Gateau's son. One cable states that she might be his grandmother. Under U.S.
immigration law, grandparents are not entitled to claim grandchildren as
Laguerre, in a telephone interview, said he wanted to move to the United
States to care for his mother and start a new life.
``I would like to come near her to take care of her and give her the care
she deserves,'' Laguerre said. ``I would like, also, to start some kind of a
Cheryl Little, executive director of the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center,
said the Gateau case is not unique.
``I wrote a report in 1994 which noted that Haitians are singled out for
special discriminatory treatment in terms of getting these visas,'' said
Little, who is advising Weiss on the Gateau case. ``The problem is the U.S.
consulate that keeps heightening the bar in terms of the proof that Ms.
Gateau needs to submit on behalf of her son. Unfortunately, she is running
out of time. Her health is rapidly deteriorating.''
The e-mail from the embassy in Haiti said the mission was no longer handling
the case because it had been returned to the U.S. Immigration and
Without commenting on the case, María Elena García, an INS spokeswoman in
Miami, said return of an immigrant visa petition to the INS means the U.S.
embassy abroad has either denied the visa or is investigating the case
An embassy e-mail dated April 11 said the embassy doubted the relationship
for two reasons: Laguerre produced a birth certificate issued 20 years after
his birth; and the DNA tests showing a Gateau-Laguerre mother-son link might
``Because a late registered birth certificate is frequently an indicator of
fraud, Mr. Laguerre was asked to present additional proof of his
relationship with Marie Leonie Gateau,'' the e-mail said.
The embassy e-mail said that technicians at the lab that performed the first
test, which showed no relationship, concluded that the discrepancy among
tests stemmed from differing methods in testing so-called genetic loci or
markers that help DNA experts tell whether people are related.
``The [original] lab tests a total of 21 genetic loci when running the DNA
test,'' the e-mail said. ``The [second lab] only 7.''
The e-mail said the first test found two inconsistencies in the genetic loci
between Laguerre and Gateau, leading the lab to conclude that Gateau is not
Laguerre's mother, although there is a ``relatively high likelihood'' that
she is his grandmother.
In a letter to U.S. Sen. Bob Graham, D-Fla., also dated April 11, Weiss
countered the embassy's findings, saying they were inaccurate and failed to
consider the methods used by the two labs.
While the second lab did test only seven genetic loci, it used the RFLP
testing method, which needs only a small number of markers, she said.
``Furthermore, any geneticist would tell you that the RFLP method . . . is
infinitely more accurate than the PCR method'' used by the first lab, Weiss
As for the late birth certificate, Laguerre said he was born in a hospital
and that a birth certificate was issued but that the original document was
Weiss also pointed out that Laguerre did not obtain his birth certificate in
anticipation of the visa petition.
``The son's birth certificate was re-issued in 1988,'' Weiss wrote. ``The
mother did not become a citizen until 1996. The son's petition was filed in
Herald staff writer Yves Colon contributed to this report.
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