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The Administration Should Urgently Stay Deportations to Haiti

In Haiti TPS on January 31, 2009 at 4:32 am

January 29, 2009

President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, DC 20500
Fax: 202-456-2461

RE: The Administration Should Urgently Stay Deportations to Haiti

Dear President Obama,

First, congratulations on your new job. Immigrant communities look forward to working with your administration. Certainly you have many pressing priorities. We are compelled, however, to bring to your attention a life or death matter: Haitian deportees face hunger, homelessness and unemployment, if not worse, in the wake of four killer storms that further devastated our hemisphere’s poorest nation. We urge you to immediately stay deportations to Haiti pending review of U.S. immigration policy toward Haitians.

To continue these deportations is inhumane and, we believe, contrary to your administration’s values of fairness, transparency and respect for human rights. Please consider:

• The former administration stayed deportations to Haiti in September only to resume them abruptly in December without notice or reasonable explanation. This was a last-minute Department of Homeland Security policy reversal. It should not stand.

• Conditions in Haiti remain abysmal. The storms destroyed 15 percent of its GDP – that’s like 8 to 10 Hurricane Katrinas hitting the U.S. in one month. Yesterday the State Department renewed warnings not to travel to Haiti due to the “destructive impact” of the storms.

• Staying the deportations is in the U.S. interest. Sending more people in need of food and shelter will further burden the Haitian government, which already is overwhelmed by the magnitude of the natural disaster. Deportees only delay recovery efforts. Meanwhile, Haitians who remain here would continue to send remittances, encouraging relatives to stay in Haiti and help rebuild their country.

• These deportations tear apart families, hurting U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents. Vialine Jean Paul, 34, married a U.S. citizen. Their 7-year-old, U.S-born daughter is being treated for a chronic viral infection. Immigration and Customs Enforcement told Ms. Jean Paul to buy plane tickets for her deportation to Haiti before February 10. Her dilemma: Should she put her daughter at risk of malaria, hepatitis, cholera, malnutrition and uncertain medical care in Haiti or leave her seriously ill daughter behind?

Across America, many of us wish our government to stand with the Haitian people. Haiti still needs U.S. assistance. Please help by immediately staying deportations to Haiti and undoing the last administration’s late-term policy reversal. It is the fair and decent course of action.


Haitian deportations slide under Obama’s radar

In Haiti TPS on January 30, 2009 at 7:46 pm

Barack Obama becomes president, and Haitians with deportation orders are put on notice: You’re outta here!

Louiness Petit-Frere, a 31-year-old baker with no family left in Haiti and whose mother and siblings have legal U.S. status — including a U.S. Marine brother who served two tours in Iraq — was put on a flight on Friday.

Vialine Jean Paul, 34, married to a U.S. citizen and with a 7-year-old American-born daughter being treated for a chronic viral infection, was notified that she needs to buy her plane ticket back to Haiti this week, having lost her appeal for asylum in 2001.

Her choice: Leave behind her little girl or take the sick child to a storm-ravaged country where polluted flood waters have left thousands at risk of malaria, hepatitis and cholera and 300,000 children facing malnutrition.

Immigration spokeswoman Nicole Navas points out that the agency is simply enforcing the law: “Individuals of all nationalities, who have had due process and who have been ordered deported, shouldn’t be surprised if they receive notices advising of their need to comply with their orders of removal.”

Advocates for Haitian immigrants say there has been an uptick since Obama’s inauguration to deport Haitians without a criminal record, many of them married to U.S. citizens or who have American-born children. The numbers provided by immigration officials Monday (41 Haitians deported since December) do not show an uptick. Just business as usual.

It’s no secret that the Bush administration played politics with the Haitian diaspora wracked by four deadly storms last summer.

Former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff rejected a request by Haitian President Rene Preval to allow undocumented Haitians to stay here until their homeland recovers. He rejected granting temporary protected status, or TPS, so that Haitians can live and work legally here — just as tens of thousands of Central Americans legally do thanks to TPS.

Are bureaucrats moving swiftly before Haiti comes up on the policy radar of the new president and his Homeland Security chief, Janet Napolitano? “They lifted the halt of deportations in late December,” noted Randolph McGrorty of Catholic Legal Services. “We heard about a handful of people who had been deported. Now there’s this flurry of activity. … There are too many signs to deny it.”

After the devastating storms, Obama noted that “the Haitian-American community is doing its part by supporting family and friends in Haiti in their time of need.” That’s precisely why TPS makes sense — for humanitarian reasons and U.S. national security. When the Clinton administration halted deportations to Haiti in the 1990s because of civil strife, there was no mass migration.

What TPS will do is help Haitians rebuild their country with remittances from relatives here who are at risk of being deported, as Cheryl Little of the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center noted in a letter to Napolitano this week.

South Florida’s congressional delegation should push the White House to act quickly. Bush left Obama a ticking time bomb by reinstating deportations — one that could explode any day now on our shores.

Myriam Marquez is a columnist for the Miami Herald. Readers may write to her via e-mail at

original article property of

Haiti’s crisis qualifies émigrés for protected status

In Haiti TPS on January 29, 2009 at 11:57 pm

Palm Beach Post Letters to the Editor

Thursday, January 29, 2009

I read with interest Dan Moffett’s column in favor of temporary protected status (TPS) for Haitians in the United States (“Bail out Haiti with phone call,” Dec. 21). I am of Haitian origin, and I want to thank Mr. Moffett for not aligning himself with those who are happy to ignore humanitarian rights.

Before President Bush left office, we had two large rallies in support of TPS for Haitians. We qualify the same as people in many countries. In 1997, TPS was granted to citizens of Montserrat because of the eruption of the island’s volcano. In 1999, it was granted to Hondurans because of Hurricane Mitch. The granting of TPS extends a long tradition of the United States awarding temporary refuge to people whose countries are unstable. Prior to congressional passage of TPS, the U.S. used extended voluntary departure (EVD), which had the same effect as TPS. EVD has been granted to citizens of Cuba, Czechoslovakia, Cambodia, Lebanon, Romania, Hungary, including a grant of status by the first President Bush to several hundred thousand Chinese students who were in the United States after the Tiananmen Square demonstrations.

We are living in a critical situation, socio-political and economic. We are striving to help our families in the U.S. and in Haiti. When they cut one Haitian from the U.S., they stop feeding, at minimum, 30 people in Haiti.

I wish there were more people like Mr. Moffett who understand our cause. We Haitians still believe in the American dream, in a country where your ideas can be heard and accepted, your visions can be transformed into reality. We believe in a country that brings hope where there is hopelessness and brings peace where there is continual conflict. That is why everybody in the world wants to be a part of the United States of America.


Lake Worth

Haitians snubbed again in bid for TPS

In Haiti TPS on January 27, 2009 at 5:11 am

OUR OPINION: Duplicity in administration policy for help after natural disasters

The Bush administration continued its policy of cruelty and bias to Haitians with the recent rejection of President Rene Preval’s request that undocumented Haitians be allowed to remain in the United States until their country recovers from last summer’s devastating storms.

In a Dec. 19 letter to Mr. Préval, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff acknowledged that the four storms that drowned low-lying parts of Haiti in mud and misery had been ”severe.” He reminded Mr. Préval of the tons of humanitarian relief supplies the United States has sent, including ”food, water, bed linens, medical supplies, hygienic items and clothing” to help the country get back on its feet.

Others treated better

In the end, though, the rules for granting Haitians Temporary Protected Status are just too narrow, and Haitians don’t qualify, Mr. Chertoff said. The rules were not so narrow in 1998 when Hurricane Mitch tore through Honduras and Nicaragua , nor in 2001 when an earthquake ripped through El Salvador . The United States granted TPS to more than 100,000 undocumented immigrants from those countries — as it should have. More than 10 years after those disasters, the Bush administration granted Hondurans, Nicaraguans and Salvadorans a renewal of TPS.

Why the administration chooses to treat Haitians differently is baffling. Mr. Chertoff’s detailed explanation of the ”opportunities” available to Haitian parolees and nonimmigrant lawful Haitians offers a clue.

The point is to discourage Haitians from leaving the island by not offering any help to undocumented Haitians who already are here. However, this is a rationale that doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. Haitians send nearly $1 billion in remittances back to Haiti , which accounts for almost a third of Haiti ‘s annual GDP. A policy of aggressive repatriation makes matters worse in Haiti , increasing — not decreasing — the likelihood of mass departures.

Cruel ruling

Moreover, giving undocumented Haitians some status through TPS increases the chance that they will work, pay U.S. taxes and send money back to relatives in Haiti . Then, there is the matter of U.S. Coast Guard vessels that relentlessly patrol waters near the Haitian coast. U.S. maritime vigilance reduces the odds of an exodus from the island.

Considering the widespread destruction of homes, schools, roads, bridges and businesses in Haiti , it is highly unlikely that enough repairs can be made in time to protect many thousands of Haitians in the next hurricane season. All of which adds up to a U.S. policy that is needlessly cruel or deliberately biased. Haitians can hope that the next administration is better at applying the rules fairly to all.


Steven David Forester, Senior Policy Advocate
Fanm Ayisyen Nan Miyami/Haitian Women of Miami, Inc. (FANM)
786 877 6999

Bushes snubbed Haitians to the end

In Haiti TPS on January 25, 2009 at 1:01 am


When he was running for governor of Florida, Jeb Bush secured hundreds of Haitian-American votes by making false promises.

In 2003, Haitian advocates learned from a meeting with Congressman John Conyers that Haitian detention would be indefinite. In the past, Haitian refugees with bona fide political asylum claims who posed no threats to their communities were released while going through the political asylum process. The rules changed, but no one knew about it.

After several high-profile meetings and trips to Washington, we learned that the orders to change the rules came from former Attorney General John Ashcroft. Inquiries by our congressional leaders revealed that the order had come from him. He claimed that Haitians would be detained indefinitely in complete denial of their most basic rights because they were a “threat to the national security of this country.”

How?  He explained with a straight face that treating Haitians well would open a “floodgate.”  Haitians would attempt to enter this country en masse.  Palestinians and Pakistanis could thus go to Haiti, board these U.S.-bound refugee boats, and endanger our national security. The world got a good laugh at us, but the policy remained.

Jeb Bush, as a candidate for governor, promised to change that. Haitian-Americans voted for him based on this promise and also on Bush’s visceral hatred of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.  He did not keep his promise.  The policy of detaining Haitians even when they were found to have credible asylum claims remains in force today. Haitians who flee Haiti in search of safe haven in the U.S. are detained indefinitely, even when they make it to land. Under the so-called wet-foot, dry-foot policy, only Cubans are allowed to stay here when they arrive on U.S. shores.  If you are fleeing to save your life, whether you make it to land or not, does not change your situation, does it?

The governor’s brother, our own former President Bush, did not promise anything. But when he took power, he claimed that his government would practice “compassionate conservatism,” and would put great emphasis on “family values.”

Surely, he would not condone the grave abuses perpetrated against immigrant families?  They give their all to this country.  Their love, their strength and their faith, faith in a country that is the most powerful in the world today because of their contributions.

They came from all over the world.  Yet, during the course of former President Bush’s eight years in power, immigrants have been criminalized, marginalized, dehumanized. Officers from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security storm their houses in the wee hours of the morning and drag them with handcuffs to detention centers.

Haitians fare worse.  Just like slavery time, breastfeeding mothers were wrenched away from their babies and hurled to prisons. Little children are left with grieving fathers at a loss of what to do.  Entire families are broken down because the mother or father was arrested and sent to jails all over the country.   This is compassionate conservatism?! Where is the compassion?!

After a food crisis that toppled Haitian Prime Minister Jacques Edouard Alexis, four successive storms ravaged Haiti.   Strong winds and powerful water currents came down the mountain with a vengeance, destroying everything in its path: human beings, animals and crops. More than 700 people died, mostly children.   Hundreds more are still unaccounted for, and 1.2 million are homeless. Famine is now king in several  villages where children are dying of malnutrition.  Nature conspired with the  bêtise (Haitian Creole for foolishness) of men to create havoc  pou youn pep ki about (for a people already overwhelmed). President Preval  wrote a letter to President  Bush  back in October asking for TPS  (Temporary Protected Status ) for Haitians.

Every observer on the terrain in Haiti agrees that it is facing its worse crisis ever.  President George W. Bush sat on the letter until a couple of days before New Year’s Day, at the end of his term. Why?  It would not cost him anything, anything politically to right this wrong…to erase this grave injustice done to Haitians.

Instead, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff sent a response letter to the media to make sure that it would be published. He denied President Preval’s request.  He wanted to go out as the U.S. president who snubbed Haitians ‘til the end. Reportedly, President Preval has not yet  received the letter.  C’est une insulte grave (French for:” this is a grave insult”).

Now, it is up to President Barack Obama. He has a moral duty to right this wrong!  He can do it with a stroke of his pen! I told the Obama transition team exactly that when I met with them and 17 other immigrant advocates recently.

Haitians have waited so long for the bells of justice and equal treatment to ring!  Justice delayed is justice denied!

Marleine Bastien is the founder and executive director of Fanm Ayisyen Nan Miyami (FANM), or Haitian Women of Miami, Inc.

Marleine Bastien
Executive Director

Fanm Ayisyen Nan Miyami, Inc

8325 N.E. 2nd Avenue
Miami, Florida 33138
tel. 305-756-8050