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9855: INs Warns Desperate Haitians....

From: leonie hermantin <lhermantin@hotmail.com>


Erida Altimeaux lifts up her skirt and shows off two scars around her right 
knee that she says she got years ago running from the secret police in 
Haiti, because she dared to discuss her opposing political views in public.

Altimeaux came to the United States by boat in 1993, and she has not seen 
six of her nine children or many other relatives since then. Now, the 
Miami-Dade County woman has learned that her brother-in-law Journal 
Altimeaux and five cousins are believed to be among more than 200 missing 
migrants who were on two sailboats apparently lost at sea on a journey from 
Ile-a-Vache off Haiti to Florida last month.

And yet despite her grief -- and on a day when the Immigration and 
Naturalization Service in Washington was trying to spread the word to 
would-be Haitian migrants that it was too dangerous to travel the seas -- 
Altimeaux says she would tell her countrymen to continue to flee.

She said the only way to stop the atrocities going on in her country is for 
the United States to send in a security force.

``I have a visa. I can go back to Haiti if I want. But I'm too scared,'' she 
said in Creole, standing in the living room of her North Miami-Dade home 
Tuesday afternoon, three of her kids scampering about.

So far this year, the U.S. Coast Guard has intercepted 1,637 Haitians at 
sea, compared with 1,394 in 2000. Monday, a 31-foot sailboat packed like a 
sardine can with 185 Haitians was towed to shore after running aground in 
Biscayne Bay.

It's unknown how many Haitians have died at sea this year. But the cost of 
getting to the United States can be high, and the waters rough. Tuesday, the 
INS practically begged Haitians to stay in Haiti. It said it will begin an 
information campaign on the struggling island.

``We want to send a clear message to Haitians not to place their lives and 
fortunes in the hands of greedy smugglers who overload their unseaworthy 
boats only to be shipwrecked, lost at sea or interdicted by the U.S. Coast 
Guard,'' said Dan Kane, an INS spokesman in Washington. ``All Haitians 
interdicted at sea by the U.S. Coast Guard are being returned to Haiti.''

Altimeaux's missing brother-in-law is the brother of her husband, Jocelyn 
Altimeaux, who was in Pompano Beach Tuesday doing road work. Erida Altimeaux 
was getting ready to go to work at a nearby laundromat.

She said the family has received numerous calls from relatives who have been 
``calling and crying, and calling and crying,'' but she has no good news to 
tell them. Her husband, she said, didn't learn of his brother's likely fate 
until a family member called three days ago.

Altimeaux said she wasn't sure if Journal was politically active, but she 
said Journal and Jocelyn's parents, Anthonine and Anio Altimeaux, were 
beaten by police and forced to hide recently -- for expressing their 
political views.

``I visited in April, and you just can't state your view,'' said Haitian 
social worker Aline Francois, who was on hand to interpret for Altimeaux. 
``If you start to discuss your political views, even to family, you can find 
yourself beaten up at night.''

Haitian officials say the country's already difficult economic situation has 
worsened because international aid has been frozen since the opposition to 
President Jean-Bertrand Aristide alleged fraud in last year's parliamentary 

The INS statement Tuesday emphasized that reports of successful boat trips 
to the United States are often untrue.

``When an unseaworthy boat loaded with Haitians is lost at sea and no one is 
returned home by the Coast Guard, rumors immediately begin among the Haitian 
villagers that their friends have made it to Miami,'' Kane said.

``Quite the contrary is true. These unseaworthy boats are breaking up at sea 
due to the passenger overload, and no one ever hears from them again. The 
United States will soon be launching a media outreach campaign in Haiti to 
advise potential migrants of the dangers they face by boarding unseaworthy 
boats and heading out to sea.''

Dangerous or not, Altimeaux said she has been trying to get her six older 
children to Florida for years, and will keep trying. The INS, she said, has 
not been very cooperative. The kids are staying with family in Haiti. One of 
their two fathers ``disappeared'' while in prison; the other, she was told, 
died of an illness.

She says her problem is that some of the children were born at home and 
didn't have birth certificates, and she was cheated by unscrupulous 
characters when she tried to get certificates for the others.

``I need those kids, and I can't provide the papers,'' Altimeaux said. ``I'm 
willing to do anything, even a DNA test to prove I'm their real mother.''

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