HAITIAN-AMERICAN GRASSROOTS COALITION (HAGC)
Immigration Reform in the United States under President Barack Obama may finally become a reality for 15 to 20 million undocumented immigrants. During past 8 years, the Bush Administration lacked political capital in the U.S Congress to persuade ultraconservative elements in the Republic Party to do the right thing. The enforcement first formula they had proposed and implemented was a receipe for disaster for the undocumented. As a flash back, see the following when documened immigrants were in the Bush's political wilderness. Wanting to get involved in the struggle to free Haitian Refugees indefinitely detained by the Bush Administration? Yes, you can help by volunteering in our local and national efforts. THe Haitian-American Grassroots Coalition in Florida and other sympathizers around the nation are coordinating a national rally in Washington DC during the month of May in order to bring the plight of Haitian Refugees at forefront in the national debate. Although the Aristide Government and the State Department maintained that the Refugees are just fleeing for harsh economic conditions in Haiti, evidence of Haitian Refugees persecution by the Lavalas Government suggest otherwise.
Indeed on DEcember 12, 2002, a published report by Associated Press indicates that among the 19 Haitian Refugees who came in the Key Biscayne boat, two of them are now being persecuted by government agents in Lacul Du Nord in Haiti. Upon an inquiry of the Haitian-American Grassroots Coalition on the matter, the U.S Ambassy in Port-au-Prince agreed to conduct an investigation in the matter. By returning the refugees to their tormentors, the Bush Administration may be in breach of United Nations Resolution 2198 which prohibits repatriation of refugees without due process. In the meantime, several refugees who have won their political asylum case at the Krome Detention Center continue to remain incarcerated. Reason, INS authorities refuse to let them go. About 10 children wo were among the refugees continue to be in incarceration as well. SEveral of the refugees have expressed to representatives of the Haitian Coalition their willingness to settle to third country instead of being repatriated to Haiti. Efforts are now under way to locate possible democratic countries interested to give political asylum to the Haitian Refugees. One European country has indicated its willingness to interview some of the refugees and consider their case individually.
For more information, you may reach the Coalition at: 305-785-4248 or click on at the site bar: Bush Administration and Haitian Containment Policy
THE HAITIAN-AMERICAN EXPERIENCE CONTINUES - 50,000 Down, 250,000 More Haitian Refugees To Go -
The Terrorist Attack on the Pentagone and the World Trade Center in New York has open a flood gate of anti-immigrant sentiments in America!
The terrorist tragedy of Tuesday September 11, 2001 where 6,000 lost their lives, among them 75 Haitians, has prompted the Justice Department and INS to review their domestic operation and policy in relation to immigrants. In essence, the Attorney General John Ashcroft is seeking a carte blanche mandate to go away with civil liberties protecting immigrants'rights. Indefinite detention of suspected immigrants who may be involved in terrorist activities has been considered by the U.S Congress in days after the terrorist attack. Even ultra-conservative Republicans like Congressman Bob Barr from Atlanta have sided with the democrats in term of protecting civil liberties for immigrants. The House has approved legislation to detain immigrants for a maximum of 7 days without cause
In early October, Senator Istook introduced a legislation to defeat Executive Order 1366 signed by President Clinton in September 2000 in order to compel federal agencies to comply with providing services to immigrants with limited english proficiency in their native language. Senator Istook is really using the anti-immigrant mood of the country to sneak unpopular measures to force immigrants to remain in the shadow.
In the meantime, immigrant advocates must continue the struggle to ensure that liberal immigrant legislations be implemented by the current administration to protect the most vulnerable members of our society, the undocumented immigrants.
It is very imperative advocates maintain a constant vigilance in the coming months as the Administration moves to close the deal with Vicente Fox who has requested the legalization of 3,000,000 mexicans now living in this country.
For a third time, Congressman Luis Gutierrez introduced the Central-American and Haitian Parity Act, a legislation that would benefit refugees from El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala and Haiti the same benefit provided to refuges from Cuba and Nicaragua in 1997. Congressman Cris Smith, Republican from New Jersey has re-introduced the same measure under House Bill HR-707. It is paramount that we contact our member of Congress to let them know than Immigration reform legislation must be brought back in the frontline and they need to support the legalization program for Mexican immigrants as well those measures being proposed by Congressmen Gutierrez and Smith. Indeed, due to the terrorist attack, poor immigrants working in restaurant, hotels, and drive taxi cabs in many national airports have become the silent victims.
Although the Coalition is getting ready for the next battle against conservative and anti-immigrant forces in Capitol Hill, one of its most serious concerns remains the final regulations which were supposed to be published by the Office of Immigration and naturalization Service this past September. So far, all the indications from the INS Attorneys working on those regulations, not enough Haitian Refugees are coming forward to apply for their adjustment of status. The high cost of the application process is prohibitive for many unemployed applicants. The short deadline (9 months) for the principal applicants to submit their documentation by March 31, 2000 will contribute to a high percentage of non-response adjustment. With a rate of only 2000 applications per month received by the Servicing Center in Nebraska and a return rate of 30%, there is no doubt an extension beyond March 31, 2000 will be necessary to allow more Haitian Nationals to apply for their adjustment of status. In a letter dated October 14, 1999, sent by the Office of the INS Commissioner to Congresswoman Meek, the HRIFA final regulations may be out within 45 to 60 days.The letter indicated the limitations of the Attorneynot being able to make HRIFA regulations more refugee friendly.
HR-2722 is gaining strenght
Information from the insiders in the Hill have expressed optimism in mid-October regarding HR-2722. According to members of CARACEN, an advocacy group based in Washington D.C which is working closely with the Grassroots Coalition, the Clinton Administration will negotiate HR-2722 as part of the Appropriations package which must clear Congress in November. Congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart, an allied of the Haitian Community in Miami, indicated his confidence that some immigration bills will get through the Congress this year but others will have to wait for next year. Congresswoman Carrie P. Meek who also co-sponsors HR-1485 has resquested the his contituents to push and lobby strongly for this bill which is a response to the abuse of the 1996 legislation which impacts severily on family preservaation. HR-2722 has now 79 sponsors aand growing quickly. We are urging immgrants sympathizers to get as many Republican Congressmen to support and sponsor this bill. The Guatemalan community will meet with the Presidential hopeful George W. Bush in an effort to gain his support for the Central American and Haitian Parity Act of 1999.
S-1592 in the United States Senate needs Republican Sponsors
The companion bill to HR-2722, the House version, in the U.S Senate is S-1592 introduced by Senator Durbin and Senator Kennedy on September 16, 1999. As of October 25, this bill has 9 sponsors, all of them Democrats. Local organizations like the American Immigration Lawyers Association, the Committee for Justice for Immigrants, Honduran Unity, and PAC-OLAMA will join with the Haitian-American Grassroots Coalition to have a dialog with Senator Connie Mack to get his support for this legislation.
HR-2125 : On October 16, 1999, members of the Grassroots Coalition and supporters from the Miami Haitian Community attended the big March for General Amnesty for Immigrants in Washington D.C. Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee from Houston Texas along with Congressman Menendez, Congresswoman Carrie Meek introduced HR-2125 in the United States House to get a general amnesty provision for undocumented immigrants who reside in the U.S in 1998. Although this bill has no republican supporters, the immigrant communities are working and watching this bill with a strong interest. It is not clear yet whether the Clinton Administration is supporting that legislation.
The 106th Congress is known as the "Do-nothing Congress" by the Hill insiders. Immigrant advocates are very hopeful that in year 2000, the immigrants advocates, sympthizers, labor unions and the private sector can find a formula to work for the common goal: better immigration reform to benefit immigrants.
This year immigrants have found new allied in Chairman Allen Greenspan of the Federal Reserve Board, Moderate Republicans like Jack Kemp and Robert Bennet, and AFL-CIO. Immigrants Coalition in East and West Coast are strategizing on a collective action plan for the coming months where presidential election will dominate the agenda in the Hill.
In May 2001, President Clinton sent a memo to Chairman Henry Hyde, in the House JUdiciairy Committee and Ranking Member John Conyers to urge them to tie the H1B visa legislation with the Central American and Haitian Adjustment Act of 2000.
In July, Vice President Al Gore stated that he was giving full endorsement to the Latino and Immigrant Fairness Act of 2000 in order to allow immigrants from Central America and Haiti the opportunity to adjust their status.
In a recent event in Los Angeles with La Raza and MALDEF, the Republican Presidential candiadte, George W. Bush had indicated that he was not for no amnesty legislation for illegal immigrants.
As negotiations started for the passage of Justice, Commerce and State Appropriations, the Republican authorizers/negotiators have demonstrated thir intransigeance about the LIFA legislation. Senator Phil Gram in the Senate and Lamar Smith in the House are passionate anti - immigrants advocates in the hill who refuse to deal with issues on immigration reform.
The Grassroots Coalition taking a stand for Stateless Haitians
March, 9, 1999: Press Conference about 40 Haitian Refugees Drown in Florida Waters and Demand an Investigation of the Maltese Vessel Tomis Faith and the U.S Coast Guard
May 14, 1999: Regional Meeting of Haitian-american CBO's and Church Leaders on the U.S Census to strategize on a plan to get Haitians counted in 2000
August 13, 1999: Grassroots Coalition paid tribute to Senators Bob Graham and Connie Mack, Congresswomen Carrie P. Meek and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Congressmen Lincoln Diaz-Balart, Alcee Hasting, and Governor Jeb Bush for their support and advocacy for the passage of the Haitian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act of 1998. City of North Miami delivers a Proclamation to the Grassroots Coalition. Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen gave a U.S Flag flown over the dome of the Capitol Hill to the Grassroots Coalition.
September 3rd, 1999: Grassroots Coalition organizes protest to free Haitians detained indefinitely at Krome under the IIRAIRA law which punishes with indefinite incarceration for retroactive violations. Honduran, cuban, and nicaraguan groups join in the protest. Coalition demands the repeal of the 1996 immigration reform legislation.
September 27, 1999: Grassroots Coalition organizes rally in front of the building of the U.S.I.N.S in Miami to demand release of Haitian detainees and launch a campaign for the repeal of the 1996 IIRAIRA Law
October 7, 1999: Grassroots Coalition exposes the RESTAVEK practice of Haitians in the American Media after alleged abuse of a 12 year old youth in Broward County. The term RESTAVEK means "staying with" is a common practice of better off haitians in Haiti using the domestic labor of the poor in exchange of room and board. In many cases, sexual abuse or favors are expected from those females, usually young girls, who are engaged as restavek.
October 14, 15, and 16: Grassroots Coalition sent delegation in Washington to participate in the Fix 1996 rally and the General Amnesty March for undocumented immigrants. Conducted lobbying activities with members of the Congress for the passage of HR-2722, the Central American and Haitian Adjustment Act of 1999. High level contacts with officials from the Justice Department took place where conditions at the Krome Detention Center in Miami, long term detention, and pattern of discrimination against hatian detainees were raised.
December 17, 1999 - HAGC secured work permit extension for HRIFA eligible applicants
As the White House lent its total attention to the Elian Affair, the Grassroots Coalition initiated a campaign targeting the Clinton Administration so it can renew the work permits of those refugees who had benefited from the Deferred Enforcement Departure Decree ordered by President Clinton in 1997. On December 23, the Justice Department issued a 9 months extension.
January First 2000 - Advocacy Against Expatriation of Haitian Refugees by U.S Coast Guards
The Haitian-American Grassroots Coalition was quick to react through 3 major demonstrations against the U.S Government in returning 407 Haitian Refugees without due process. The separation of yvena Rhinvil kept in Miami for health reasons with her two children deported in Haiti had caused severe anger in the Community. On January 12, 2000, the Grassroots Coalition in collaboration with major political sectors in the Haitian community organized a march of 48 City blocks with over 5000 people in attendance to ask for the immediate reunification of Marc and Germaine Dieubon with their mother in Miami. Within 24 hours the U.S Attorney General Janet Reno issue humanitarian visas allowing both children to join their mom.
January 31, 2000 - Meeting with Robert Wallis INS - District Director
A delegation of the Haitian-American Grassroots Coalition met with Robert Wallis in an effort to open a dialog between the district and the Coalition. Issues discussed included the wet foot/dry foot policy regarding interception of Haitian and other refugees. Improvement of communication between INS and local groups and the creation of a crisis unit inside INS to deal with cases of interception in Florida waters.
March 7, 2000 - Participation of HAGC in Rally in Tallahassee to support Affirmative Action and stands against the Jeb Bush's Florida One Initiative
March 24, 2000 - Protest of HAGC members inside INS against the release of final reg on HRIFA just 7 days before the deadline for the principal applicants
High level officials from INS were greeted with
impromptu signs stating "shame on you" as they were holding a press conference inside their facility in Miami to announce the release of the final regulations on HRIFA. Those signs changed the dynamic of the press conference. Indeed Michael Shaul, a counsel for INS who drafted the regulations, agreed that indeed he was ashamed that INS took so long to release those regulations which were supposed to be released since December 1999.
On March 25, 2000, HAGC held a press conference to express its position on the matter. Many refugees who were inelegible to apply under the interim regulations become elegible under the final regulations but had only 7 days to apply before the dealine. By March 31, 2000, from the 49,5000 Haitian refugees who should have applied for benefits, about 36,000 had time to do so. Those refugees who enter the U.S by plane with improper documents have been classified as ineligible to apply under the program.
February 2nd, 2000 - Introduction of HR-3572 in the U.S House by Congresswoman Carrie P. Meek
this legislation propsed an 18 month extension to HRIFA applicants who missed the deadline to apply
February 10, 2000 - Introduction of S-2058 in the U.S Senate by Senators Bob Graham and Connie Mack
This legislation is looking for a 12 months extension for HRIFA eligible applicants who fail to apply before the deadline.
On March 25, 2000 Congressman Gutierrez sought the assistance of the Grassroots Coalition to give the "last push" for HR-2722 to clear the U.S Congress this year. Both the Pan-American Coalition and the Haitian-American Grassroots Coalition are working closely to secure passage of HR-2722.
On April 18, 2000 - HAGC Organizes Workshop on Census to increase the response rate
When the Census Committee in the Grassroots Coalition became aware the response rate for the area of Little Haiti was 19.2 percent, it quickly contacted local adult education schools to assist participants in filling their census forms. 300 people were able to get counted.
On May 14, 2000, a delegation of the Haitian-American Grassroots Coalition met with Ambassador Don Steinberg regarding the repatriation of Haitian Refugees intercepetd in the Flamenco - Bahamas and despite their demand for political aylum, Bahamian authorities deported them to Haiti. Amenty international and other human rights organizations objected strongly to the Bahamian Government for not implementing the 1967 Protocole in providing assistance to political refugees. Preliminary assessment made by Amnesty International indicated that some of those refugees had a legitimate claims to request an interview for political asylum. Ambassodor Steinberg maintains that according to the report received from Haiti, there is no government sponsored violence and that those Haitian Refugees were not well known political figures in Haiti.
In the same day, Grassroots Coalition members participated along with Haitians from New York and Connecticut in a national rally to advocate for the pasage of the Latino and Immigrant Fairness Act in Capitol Hill. Delegation members met with with Congressmen Gutierrez, Menendez, Meek and SEnator Wellstone and immigrants leaders from all over the nation.
On August 5, 2000, the Haitian-American Grassroots Coalition together with several Hipanic organizations (THe Pan-American Coalition) coordinated a multi-etnic march in Miami in order to create national awareness on the plight for amnesty for immigrants.
In September 2000, under the leadership of the Haitian-American Grassroots Coalition, the Haitian COmmunity took to the street to demand the immediate release of of 46 Haitian refugees who landed in Fort -Lauderdale, among them a baby of four months and 11 unaccompanied minors. In less than 5 days all of those refugees but one were release from Krome on their own recognizance.
The Coalition sent another delegation in Washington Dc to speak with members of Congress in a last ditch effort to advocate for passage of the Latino and Immigrant Fairness Act. The delegation attended also the Congressional Balck Caucus Conference in DC in order to gain support of the Caucus members for the passage of LIFA. Senator Connie Mack indicated that he was not willing to make any promise for the passage of immigration legislations.
In January 2001 the Haitian-American Grassroots Coalition held a press conference in Miami to urge prtesident Clinton before he leaves office to provide temporary protected status to to those Haitian Refugees who are not covered under the Haitian Refugee Immigrant Fairness Act of 1998.
In April 2001, members of the Haitian-American Grassroots Coalition testified in a hearing before the U.S Civil Rights Commission on election irregularities and the experience of Haitian-American voters in the Presidential election in Florida.
In mid April, Coalition members met with Ira Kurzban, general Counsel for the Haitian Government to discuss issues regarding negotiations between President Aristide and the White House regarding the deportation of certain Haitian Nationals.
In late April 2001, members of the Coalition shared with the Florida Governor Jeb Bush their preoccupation about lack of healthcare for legal immigrants who have no insurance in the state. In a meeting held in May with the governor staff, it was indicated that the Governor will give his support and intervene before the Whithe House whenever a legislation is introduced to benefit Haitian immigrants and others.
When the Grassroots Coalition Chairman Jean-Robert Lafortune raised the issue of the Haitian Government to broker a deal with Washington for possible repatriation of Haitian Nationals, the president indicated his plans were to negotiate the repatriation of Haitians who arrested and committed crime in the U.S. HIs negotiations will adress the situation of the Haitian - Zenglendos being deported by the U.S authorities.
In June 2001, the Chair of the Haitian-American Grassroots Coalition met with Semator Joseph Lieberman who indicated that he was willing to play a leadership role on immigration legislations dealing with Haitian immigrants.
GRASSROOTS COALITION TAKING A STAND FOR STATELESS HAITIANS
The Orphan Children remain the category the most vulnerable for adjustment of status under the Haitian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act of 1998. There is an important number of children born in the Bahamas from Haitian Parents but who were not registered at birth by any government agency whether Haitian or Bahamian. Under Bahamian law, anyone born of foreign parents after july 1973 will automatically follow the nationality of the parent or parents. The hostile environment in the Bahamas makes it very difficult for pregnant women who are undocumented to receive healthcare assistance without being subject to immediate deportation to their country of origin. Haitian women have been forced to give birth in unsafe conditions in the Bahamas. These children who came in the United States without parents can apply for their adjustment of status if they can prove their Haitian Ancestry. Without a birth certificate government officials will not issue a haitian passport or any document indicating ancestry. On June 10, 1999, in a meeting with the Haitian Consul in Miami, Mr. Gabriel Augustin, members of the Coalition express their preoccupation about the precarious conditions of these children because their parents had made in involuntary mistake of not reporting child birth to the Haitian Consulate in the Bahamas. Mr. Augustin indicated that even though he was sympathetic to the situation but he could not do anything about it; he suggested instead that it was more appropriate for the Coalition to bring the issue before the president of Haiti, Mr. Rene Garcia Preval. A letter sent to the Minister Jean Geneus who is responsible for the Ministry of Haitians Living Abroad demanding a resolution to the situation of those orphaned children was given an unsatisfactory answer. While the Haitian Government is dragging its feets hundred or may be thousands of Haitian Children will miss out a unique opportunity to adjust their immigration status by March 31, 2000. The Coalition will send an open letter to the president to request his personal intervention on the matter.
GRASSROOTS COALITION ORGANIZED RALLY TO FREE HAITIANS JAILED IN KROME DETENTION CENTER
When the Grassroots Coalition became aware of the case of several Haitian Immigrants detained at Krome for minor violations of the law, it quickly alerted the community on the case of Ralph Richardson, 33. He is an Atlanta Businessman who went for a two day trip to Haiti then was arrested on October 1997 at the Miami International airport for a drug violation for which he had already served time for in 1993. He has now 23 months in detention, the longest so far in Krome history. Mr. Richardson discovered he was not an American Citizen the day he decided to go to Haiti and he had to obtain a haitian passport. He is living in the United States as a legal immigrant since he was two year old. There is also the case of Fredeline Dauphin, 24, who is living in America since she was 8 year old. Due to problems dealing with domestic violence, she had to spend 18 months in jail. Recently when she called police for her boyfriend who was abusing her, when the officers came, she had a change of heart, not willing to see her lover going to jail, when asked by police officers to identify her assaillant, she refused to do so. She was then taking to jail for violating her probation then Police referred her to INS authorities. There are countless cases of Haitians being arrested for traffic violations or highschool students having quarrels with classmates who are now detained in Krome and facing deportation. The Grassroots Coalition is working actively with other immigrant and civic groups to seek the repeal of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRAIRA) enacted by the Republican Congress in 1996 in a move to fight terrorism and deport immigrants for major and minor violations. Ms. Dauphin has 3 children aged 3,4, and 5 years. Her emprisonment is causing serious trauma on those kids who came with their grand-father in the rally. The Coalition is asking for Commissioner Doris Meisner from the INS Headquarter in Washington D.C to review the case of those haitians being detained in Krome and in other detention centers around the country. For the September 3rd, 1999 rally, other ethnic groups like the Movimiento Democratico, Mothers for Freedom from the Cuban Community and Unidad Hondurena from the Honduran community sent press releases to their community indicating their support for the Haitian Community. Leaders of those organizations were present as well in the protest. It is a novelty to see those groups supporting Haitians in their quest for equal treatment. Scores of other immigrants who have committed major crimes have been released recently from Krome.
In June 2001, the U.S Supreme Court dealt a big blow to the US-INS regarding the implementation of the 1996 Immigration Law which punishes immigrants for crimes committed years ago. Lawyers and advocates are relieved that the Supreme Court found it was unconstitutional for INS to deport immigrants without appearing before a judge. The Supreme Court decision is based on the appeal of M. Saint Cyr a Haitian immigrant who contested INS authority in referrence to the IIRAIRA legislation enacted in 1996 by those republicans who were advocating for anti - immigrant legislations under the guise of the Contract with America."
Should you need further information on the Haitian American Grassroots Coalition or if you want to support financially this organization, send correspondence to:
C/O Jean-Robert Lafortune - Chairman/C.E.O
Haitian-American Grassroots Coalition,Inc.
Miami, Fl. 33238
For our archives materials go to:
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New advocacy initiatives: HAGC seeking the repeal of Florida No Match No Vote Law
and able to develop strategic programs dealing with economic development, youth initiatives and social development.
With a 4 billion dollars budget this year, Miami-Dade County Commission has approved less than $1,000,000 for agencies and organizations serving the Haitian community. In a county of over 2,300,000 residents,
there are 13 commission districts with a majority of 7 hispanics, 2 anglos, and 4 African-Americans. In two districts, Haitians account for about 30% and 15% of the total population. Although the Haitian community fullfil the criteria to be considered as a community of interest under the Civil Rights Act of 1965, but consultants for the County Commission they can not give any suggestion as for the representation of Haitians since the Census 2000 gave no account in term of number of haitian living in Miami and in the State of Florida.
A census survey published by the U.S Census Bureau indicates that in Florida, there is an estimate of 267,839 Haitians living in the State. According to some Haitian activists, although that number represents a gross undercount, about half of those haitians in that estimate resides in Miami-Dade County. The TASK-Force has met several times with the purpose of drafting a new map and a proposal which will recommend the Dade County to increase the number of districts with the idea of a haitian representation for the new seats. According to some insiders, the issue may have to go for a referendum
in order to do a charter change in the Commission. This issue is likely to end in court in the future. In 2008, during the Chaurter REview process, HAGC and members organizations launched an aggressive campaign to bring to the table the issue of Fair Reprensation again. All the significant etchnic groups in the County were represented in the Charter REview Committee whose members were appointed by the Commission. A small victory for HAGC during the process was a proposal supported by HAGC to bar the members of the Commission to draw the redistricting map after the next census. HAGC's proposal to increase the number of commission districts to 14 single members district was indefinitely postpone by the Charter Review Committee.
united to celebrate the passage of the Haitian Refugee Immigrant Fairness Act