Bush Administration implements new Haitian Refugee Containment Policy - INS violating international conventions protecting refugees. On October First, 2002, U.S Senate Immigration Sub-committee heard testmonies on matter. Deterrence policy of Bush Administration vis-a-vis Haitian Refugees failed as a boatload of 214 throw themselves to the water to escape to freedom on Tuesday, October 29, 2002, among them an 18 month old girl, as the world watches in live T.V coverage in CNN. Administration accusing refugees of being a threat to U.S national security! Haitian -Americans in the Diaspora are outraged by the Administration indefinite detention policy of Haitian nationals.
On Tuesday, October 29, 2002 a boatload of Haitian Refugees carrying 234 people became suddenly the center of Florida Politics as two candidates for gubernatorial election scramble to take a politically correct position on the matter of Haitian Refugees. The Deocratic nominee Bill McBride in a letter sent to the Bush Administration stated the indefinite detention policy of the Administration was "racist" and the Florida Governor Jeb Bush said that he was for fair treatment for Haitian Refugees. Congresswoman Carry P. Meek in a press conference at Liberty City
requested Governor Bush to call his brother in the White House to doi right for Haitians. Haitian advocates have recently criticized the Governor for not show enough interest in influencing the Administration on the issue.
Haitian-Americans in the diaspora are outraged at the Administration since it implemented in December 2001 a new policy designed to deter Haitian Refugees from seeking asylum in the United States. Policymakers like the newly elected Congressman Kendrick P. Meek said that the presence of those refugees is a clear indication that the policy of deterrence is not working, in a protest held by the Haitian-American Grassroots Coalition in front of the Miami-INS Florida District. Congresswoman Carrie P. Meek has introduced a legislation in the U.S Congress, if enacted would give the same benefits to Haitian Refugees that are now being given to Cuban Refugees. Given the current political mood in the U.S Congress, it is unlikely that such a bill could become law, expressed several Haitian advocates. The Administration has signaled that it considers that Haitian Refugees posed a national security threat for the United States. On November 5th, 2002, federal authorities have deprted 19 of those haitian Refugees who came on the October boat.
In the meantime, the Haitian-American Grassroots Coalition, along with local and national organizations are coordinating early next year a national rally in Washington DC in order to bring the Haitian plight before policymakers in the U.S Congress.
On December 3rd, 2001, at the Biscayne National Park in Miami, the U.S Coast Guard intercepted a boatload of Haitian Refugees with 188 passengers on board. 3 died during the Coast Guard rescue, 18 swam to shore and 167 were put in indefinite detention by the Bush Administration citing that to protect human life and mass exodus of refugees, indefinite detention was being used as deterrence. Other agencies such as the national Security Council has cited that the issue of Haitian Refugees is a national security issue. In may 2002 the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center and the law firm of Kurzban and Kurzban filed a class action law suit against the Justice Department and INS. In June Federal Judge Lenard rejected case by saying that Haitian advocates must take their plight to Washington DC and speak with policymakers. Since July 29 2002 the Bush Administration began the massive deportation of those refugees all of whom have passed the credible fear interview by INS officials.
On board of the haitian Refugee boat were 12 minors, among them a 3 months old baby. Now he has spent by 8 months in incarceration as of August 3rd, 2002.
In late December, Congressman Alcee Hastings, D-Fl., and leaders of the U.S Congressional Black Caucus sent communication to the Administration and Attorney General John Ashcroft on behalf of the Refugees, the White House has kept its silence on the issue.
In January 2002, INS had deported at least 4 of those refugees to Haiti because they did not pass the credible fear interview test which would have allowed them to apply for political asylum. The remaining was deem yo have passed the credible fear interview and could be in danger if returned to Haiti.
On January 18, 2002, Members of AFL-CIO staged protest in front of the INS building in Miami to damand fair and equal treatment for Haitian Refugees.
During the months of February and March 2002, other community groups such as FANM Aysyen Nan Miami, labor unions and others staged several rallies in front of INS to get federal authorities to abide by their own policy regarding treatment of refugees.
On June 21, 2002, when President Bush came to Miami to celebrate Cuba's independence and raise funds for his brother Jeb Gubernatorial campaign, the Haitian -American Grassroots Coalition staged a protest in the exclusive neighborhood Coral Gables to demand the release of the Haitian Refugees. The Secret Service ordered the protesters to stay away from the presidential motorcade by at least 2 miles. When asked why the protesters could not be on the presifdential route, the police said,"The Secret Service do not want to have any problem in evacuating the president if there is bomb explosion around."
On March 9, 2002, Congressman John Conyers, D-MI, ranking Member of the U.S House Judiciairy Committee
toured the detention facilities where the haitian Asylum Seekers were being detained and spoke with the Haitian Refugees. It was at that time, after lying for months to haitian-American Community leaders in Miami that the Miami INS District Director, Mr. John Bulger finally declares and admitted in fact there was a policy in detaining Haitian refugees, and directives were given to him on December 16, 2002 not to release any Haitians. Indeed at the Krome detentiuon center, the delegation of the Haitian-American Grassroots Coalition accompanying Congressman Conyers identified at least 4 Haitian Refugees who have won their political asylum case before a a federal judge but still INS was keeping them behind bars indefinitely. A very upset Conyers indicated to INS
Officials that the agency may be in violation of federal laws by incarcerating minor children without
providing them with basic education and teaching. The Congressman indicated that he may entertain a hearing on the issue. We must put the spotlight on those Refugees, declares the Michigan Congressman. Before leaving Miami, he gave a joint press Conference with the Haitian-American Grassroots Coalition regarding his findings after touring the holding facilities.
In December, several of the Haitian Women who were at the Krome Detention Camp were being raped by INS guards. Instead of removing the guards at the facility, INS authorities had instead removed the Haitian Women Asylum Seekers to a maximum security facility citing it was for their own protection. No investigation has been done so far to punish the culprit. For eight months now, none of the refugees has been able to contact their families in Haiti via letters or phone calls.
Despite community outcry and intervention of policymakers from both sides of aisles advocating for fair treatment for Haitian Refugees, the Bush Administration has remained indiferrent to the Refugees' plight. On Monday, July 29, 2002, INS had deported 25 Haitian Refugees, among them are 21 who came on the ill-fated trip of December 3rd, 2001. Responding to the deportaion of those refugees and their mistreatment, the Haitian-American Grassroots Coalition and member organizations have upped the ante and orchestrated several rallies in Miami. On Friday, August 9, 2002, the Grassroots Coalition has called for a "National Day of Action" in major U.S metropolitan areas such as Miami, Boston, New York, Atlanta, Los Angeles, San Antonio, Rhodes Island and other places by organizing prayer vigils to bring moral support to the Refugees and add grassroots pressure on the Administration. Other direct actions are being planned as well among advocacy groups here im Miami. Efforts are under way to get Senator Patrick Leahy, Chair of the U.S Senate Judiciairy Committee to open hearing on the matter. In Miami, the Prayer Vigil will take place in front of the Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center at 7000 N.W 41 Street from 5:00 P.M - 11:00 P.M where the Haitian women are incarcerated. Religious services will be conducted for them inside the facility as well.
Who is controlling the fate of the Haitian Refugees?
The Democracy Directorate, a shadow agency inside the U.S National Security Council, under the leadership of Eliott Abrahams is at the helm of the U.S Caribbean policy and specifically haiti. Mr. Abrahams is well known for his ultra conservative agenda and was found guilty under the Regan Administration for his dealings with the Iran - Contra scandal. He and Oliver North were the stars directing the overt and covert operations in Central American countries such as: Nicaragua, El salvador, Honduras, Guatemala and Panama.
Partial list of sponsors of the Haitian Grassroots Coalition Prayer Vigil:
ACLU, Miami-Dade NAACP, Haitian Women of Miami, SEIU-1199, AFL-CIO Women Alliance of Miami-Dade and Broward, The Willie Velasquez Institute, SVREP of Florida, People for the American way Foundation, Catholic Charities, Women for Human Rights International, GUIA, Pan-American Coalition, American Guatemalan Association, Miami-Dade County Mayor Alex Penelas Office, Miami-Dade County Commission District - 3 (Commisisoner Dr. Barabara Carey Shuler), Jobs with Justice of Florida, Little Haiti Housing Association, VEYE-YO, UNITE, Unite For Dignity, Florida Immigrant Coalition, Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center, ACORN of Florida, Amnesty International (Broward County Chapter), and the National Coalition For Haitian Rights.
Many have visited Haitian Refugees at maximum security jail
In addition to Congressman John Conyers, many national figures have visited the Haitian Women at the Turner Guilford jail. This facility has become like a pilgrimmage for immigrant, and human rights advocates for the past few months. In May 2002, the Leader of the National Action Network, Reverend Al Sharpton and Abner Louima have paid visit to the Refugees.
On June 20th, 2002, the famous Senator Kendrick Meek soon to become Congressman Meek along with leaders of the Greater Miami - Dade Chamber of Commerce, Peter Roulhac and Chris Lee have toured the facility.
On June 21, 2002, Members of the U.S Commission on Civil Rights, including the Chair Mary Frances Berry
spent three hours inside the facility to speak with the refugees and jail officials. In that meeting, the Chair vowed to know who had directly issued the directive to detain the haitian Refugees indefinitely.
On July 9, 2002, at the insistence of Senator Bob Graham and Senator Nelson, the INS Commissioner James Ziglar, after much hesitation, had visited the refugees at the jail. Inthere he indicated to Senator Nelson, he was afraid to release the refugees because he did not want them to flee. Historically, Haitian Refugees always kept their end of the bargaing in showing up for their hearing.
On July 27, 2002, the famous Holliwood Star Danny Glover spent hours consoling the Refugees at the Turner Guilford Knight Center
After months of protests by human rights and Haitian refugees' advocates, the United States Senate Judiciary Committe on Immigration sets a congressional hearing for October First 2002 at the Dirksen Senate Office Building #226 to deal with the issue of indefinite detention of those refugees. In June this year, the Federal Judge Joan Lenard threw out of court the suit filed by Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center and the law Firm of Kurzban and Kurzban, stating the advocates must go in Washington DC to speak with policy makers to seek a remedy. Nevertheless advocates are a bit worried that the Immigration sub-Committee will not be able to shed light on the indefinite detention policy because one the key architect of this policy, Mr. Eliott Abrahms who heads the Directorate for Democracy was not called to testify, neither the Miami-INS District Office Director Mr. John Bulger was not invited to testify.