Posts Tagged ‘TPS’

Haitians Impatient with Obama Over TPS

In Haiti TPS, Haitians, Obama, RALLY/PROTEST on October 29, 2009 at 8:10 pm

by Francesca Guerrier & Kim Ives

Some 50 Haitians and their supporters held a spirited demonstration in front of the Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach on Monday, Oct. 26 to demand that President Obama immediately grant Temporary Protected Status or TPS to some 35,000 undocumented Haitians currently in the US.

Obama was at the hotel for a fundraiser for Democratic Florida congressmen Alcee Hastings and Kendrick Meek, who is running for senator.

The demonstration was organized by the Haitian American Grassroots Coalition, Institute of Justice and Democracy (IJDH), Florida Immigrant Coalition (FLIC) and Free Haiti Now, all groups which had been expecting Obama to reverse the Bush administration’s denial of TPS to Haitians last December.

“We are all frustrated that more than nine months after President Obama’s inauguration Haitians still don’t have TPS despite the incredibly broad editorial and political support for it, including from the three South Florida Republicans in the US House of Representatives,” said Steve Forester, an immigration lawyer and long-time TPS advocate who presently represents the IJDH in Florida. “And we are doubly surprised that we have not yet gotten a response to our request to at least give people the dignity of the right to work while the administration continues, month after month, to review the propriety of granting TPS, which to us and every objective observer is a no-brainer, based on the four hurricanes and storms that hit Haiti in a one-month period a year ago.”

TPS, which briefly can be granted by executive order to undocumented immigrants in the U.S. who are temporarily unable to return to their nation because of a natural disaster, armed conflict, or other extraordinary circumstances. Since it was established in 1990, TPS has been granted to immigrants from Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, Burundi, Somalia, Montserrat, Sierra Leone, Sudan and Liberia.

Since January, many demonstrations demanding TPS for Haitians have been held in Florida and other states. Over 300 people from Florida and the Northeast traveled by bus to Washington, DC to demonstrate in front of the White House on Jun. 3, and many more turned out for a second demonstration there on Sep. 16.

On Sep. 18, Free Haiti Now, FLIC and Haitian Women in Miami (FANM) held a vigil at Virginia Key Beach on Key Biscayne to call for TPS and to pay respect to the many Haitian refugees who have died at sea. Performing at the protest were Miami artists DJ Khaled, Mecca aka Grimo, and Grindmode. Other celebrities also supported the action and the TPS call including M1 from Dead Prez, Black Dada, Ace Hood, NBA superstar Hudonis Haslem, and three artists from the group Poe Boy: Billy Blue, Brisco and Flo Rida.

“We need the administration to grant TPS or at least, while they are considering it, to grant work permits on a case by case basis to TPS-deserving non-criminal Haitians who desperately need work permits, drivers licenses and the ability to feed their families, pay electricity bills, and send remittances to Haiti which can support up to ten times that number, thereby increasing Haiti’s security and our own,” Forester said.

On Oct. 26, the demonstrators were restricted to a sidewalk across Collins Avenue from the Fontainebleau. The area was heavily guarded by U.S. Secret Service, Miami Beach police and private security guards. The police harassed demonstrators who sought to take pictures of the protest from the street.

Further down the sidewalk, a group of about 100 anti-immigrant “teabaggers” protested Obama’s presence in Miami with absurd signs like “Go back to Kenya” and “Go back to Indonesia” and “Obama = Comunism.” (sic)

Among those who came out to the TPS demonstration were a few Central American farmworkers from Homestead, about 25 Haitians from West Palm Beach, and FLIC staff members.

In March, former Haitian-American unionist Patrick Gaspard, now Obama’s Director for Political Affairs, traveled to Miami to soothe and reassure Haitian leaders that the administration would soon act on TPS. The reprieve he brokered has now expired.

“As far as we are concerned, regarding Haiti, the Obama administration is maintaining the same status quo as the Bush immigration policy,” Haitian-American Grassroots Coalition president Jean-Robert Lafortune told the Miami Herald.


NBA Star, Udonis Haslem speaks out in favor of TPS for Haitians

In ENTERTAINMENT, Haiti TPS, RALLY/PROTEST on September 5, 2009 at 5:45 am



In an interview on Wednesday, September 2, 2009, with FREE HAITI NOW, Udonis Haslem (#40), Forward-Center for the Miami Heat spoke about the widespread financial impact of Temporary Protected Status on the U.S. “I shout out TPS because whether we believe it or not, this would affect everybody,” Haslem comments. Haslam who states that Haitians are an integral part of Miami, believes that Haitians here alike everyone else in the US should have the opportunity to work and make an honest living.

Haslem is not alone in his sentiment about the importance of the Haitian community to the fabric of the American culture. Other young celebrities like Poe Boy’s Flo rida, Billy Blue, Brisco, Sak Pase Record’s Mecca aka Grimo, Iconz Music’s Ballgreazy ,Maybach Music Group’s Triple C, 99 Jamz’s DJ Griot, Grindmode, and Des Loc from Piccalo will come together on Friday, September 18th, 2009 for the Tet Ansanm (Heads United) TPS Solidarity Vigil for Haitian refugees lost at sea. They will raise their voices to call the youth to action toward President Obama to grant TPS to undocumented Haitians.

The Vigil sponsored by the Haitian Women of Miami (FANM), Florida Immigrant Coalition (FLIC), FREE HAITI NOW (FHN) and On Point Entertainment and Marketing (OPEM) will take place at the Historic Virginia Key Beach Park starting at 3pm on September 18th. The Vigil will also feature poets, motivational speakers and local politicians.

Event Details and For More Information:

Event: Tet Ansanm TPS Solidarity Vigil
Date: Friday, September 18, 2009
Time: 3:00pm – 7:00pm
Location: Virginia Key Beach Park – 4020 Virginia Beach Drive, Miami, FL
Hosting Agencies: FANM, FLIC, FHN, OPEM
Type: Vigil/Rally
Phone: 3057787073

Background: Temporary Protected Status is for foreign nationals currently residing in the U.S. whose homeland conditions are recognized by the US government as being temporarily unsafe or overly dangerous to return to (e.g., war, earthquake, flood, drought, or other extraordinary and temporary conditions). TPS would afford undocumented Haitians SSN, work authorization, driver licenses and opportunity to attend school while they are in the US as Haiti recovers from four devastating hurricanes in 2008.


In Haiti TPS, Haitians on August 28, 2009 at 2:50 am

“At last, the parents of baby Luana have been released from custody,” exclaims Marleine Bastien, Executive Director of FANM, Inc. Almost one month ago, Marleine Bastien addressed a letter to Secretary Napolitano of the Department of Homeland Security, requesting the release of Chandeline Leonard and Lucsene Augustin. This couple was detained by ICE after their boat capsized off Palm Beach County on or about May 13, 2009. Chandeline and Lucsene’s 8 month old baby girl, Luana Augustin, tragically drowned in the waters when the boat capsized.

In the late afternoon of Friday, August 21, 2009, Chandeline was finally released from the West Palm Beach County Jail. Her father, Seneque Leonard and cousin, Albert Noel were there to bring her home. Today, after 3 months of separation, Chandeline and Lucsene were reunited. Lucsene Augustin was released today, August 27, 2009 at approximately 4:30pm. The family was all smiles as they drove back to Miami.

“We are relieved that ICE/DHS finally lifted the hold, which facilitated the release of Chandeline and Lucsene. We will continue to closely monitor their immigration cases and that of all the survivors of this tragedy to ensure that all are given due process,” states Danna Magloire, Esq., Attorney Adviser of FANM, Inc. “FANM remains at the service of Chandeline, Lucsene and their family. We are prepared to help them with the burial of baby Luana and support them as they begin their healing,” says Marleine.

FANM, Inc. coordinated the release of the bodies of the three unidentified women who were being held at the Palm Beach County Morgue along with Baby Luana. The three unknown women have been transported St Fort Funeral Home, at 16480 NE 19th Ave, North Miami Beach, FL 33162 (305) 940-1428. St Fort Funeral Home has graciously agreed handle the funeral arrangements without charge. The funeral for these three women is tentatively scheduled for Friday, September 11, 2009 in order to allow the families of the women to come in and identify the bodies. “We hope that the families of these women will come forward so that their lives may be celebrated and remembered,” states Marleine. The families are welcome at anytime during St Fort’s business hours to visit.


In Haitians on March 20, 2009 at 5:58 pm

by Francesca Guerrier

Image copyrighted Francesca Guerrier/OPEM

Image copyrighted Francesca Guerrier/OPEM

Mecca aka Grimo is a young upcoming Haitian-American hip-hop artist and actor who is well-known for his political engagement. He often shows up at demonstrations demanding rights for Haitian refugees.

He is also a rapper and part of the Spoken Word generation. His poetry has a revolutionary edge.

Born to Haitian parents in Brooklyn, NY and raised for some of his youth in Queens, in 1985 he moved with them to Miami, where he still lives. He is the founder of Fepouli, described on his website as a “non-profit non-political movement” fighting disease and poverty.

Mecca is signed with Sak Pase Records, Hex Battalion and is managed by OPEM. He played a leading role in the Haitian film “Kidnappings” (2005). He has a degree in Acoustical Engineering. The Haitian flag’s coat of arms is tattooed on his shoulder.

Our correspondent Francesca Guerrier interviewed him last week in Miami about his views on politics, history, art, education, and the current campaign to win Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for undocumented Haitians in the US.

HAITI LIBERTÉ: How did you come by the name Mecca aka Grimo?

MECCA AKA GRIMO: I felt that my government name was not doing justice to my level of consciousness, to where I was. Mecca came naturally. Mecca means a holy place, not necessarily the religious place Mecca [in Saudi Arabia], but more a symbolic place within. The divinity you search for is within you. I often had information and many people turned to me for answers. Because I had often done my research, I usually knew what was going on. Someone called me Mecca for that reason. It was just a remark, but I thought it fitted my being. I do not believe in any particular religion. I believe in that supreme being that creates all positive things, but I think religion is man-made in order to divide and control us.

HL: You promote literacy through poetry. How did that come about?

MECCA: I learned so much. There was so much knowledge I was blessed to have. I wanted to share that knowledge, that’s the only way it comes back. I like to communicate and the way I communicate best is through my talents, with my voice. I believe Spoken Word is rap; one is poetry to the beat and the other is freely spoken. I started reciting Spoken Word for myself, and then I started realizing that poetry was connected to creative writing, reading, absorbing information, and staying current with news from around the world.

I started to analyze the music, our market, and the statistics, and I noticed that so much of our youth was dropping out of school and dying. But Hip Hop was originally used as a tool to educate. So I said to myself, I can’t limit myself just to the message of culture. The kids need to understand what I’m saying. We need to make them literate, so that if I write a poetry book, they’ll be able to read it. They have to be able to get my message. And not necessarily just what I write in the lines, but I need them to understand the message that I’m saying between the lines. So I said there’s a mission and a message that is stronger than just going to the clubs and playing for money. Our youth needs to be elevated, spiritually and intellectually. So I go to schools and talk to the kids about the importance of being literate. Through the process of lyrics and poetry, kids become more perceptive. The teachers and the principals agree with this method because they have tried every tool, but they cannot get through. They are not using modern techniques to teach. Music and art make children more receptive, even to social studies and math. This has been proven.

So I want to use art to teach as well as for entertainment.

HL: You are very militant and active.

MECCA: You have to commit yourself to the cause if that’s what you’re talking about. You have to walk the walk, if you’re going to talk the talk. I don’t think that I’m militant. I’m just committed to what I speak about. I speak about Haiti and its contribution to the world, and when I go into the schools or am interviewed, it’s something people have to hear about.

HL: You are a big supporter of President Obama. You even wrote a song called “As Long as We Can.” Do you think President Obama will help Haitians in the U.S. with the deportation issue, and grant TPS? Do you think he will help Haiti in a way that doesn’t simply aim at advancing U.S. interests?

MECCA: That is truly a tough question. President Obama is a human being inside the system, just like every other president was. I definitely am for change. The way he ran his campaign, I was impressed with his commitment, with his message to the people. Now that he’s in office, we’ll have to see what will he do to deliver on his promises. But he still has my support because he’s committed to doing what he believes in.

As far as helping Haiti is concerned: there’s really an underlying agenda to not let Haiti be the icon that it can be, to not have the title that it should have. I mean, Haiti got its title a long time ago, but the reason why Haiti is still the way it is today is because there’s another agenda stopping Haiti from flourishing. Even though Obama is our president and he may have great intentions for Haiti, I don’t think a President has that much power to really make that decision and say: “OK, we’re going to free Haiti, or we are going to Haiti and restructure some things.” But I do think he wants to show that he wants to help in some way, and I think he will try to do some things. But I don’t know how much he can do because of the greater underlying agenda that keeps Haiti the way it is.

HL: As a second generation Haitian, how do you feel that immigrants from countries in better shape then Haiti have been granted TPS, while we are still struggling for simple immigration rights?

MECCA: I definitely feel the injustice, the inequality. Why hasn’t Haiti been helped, been rescued by the Caribbean coalition? This is where we come back to the hidden agenda, which I understand. And that’s where my job comes in: to educate people not to get depressed about it. I don’t like it. I don’t agree with this agenda, but I can’t get depressed about it. I have to continue to fight by educating the masses. I thank Haiti Liberté for giving me the chance to deliver my message. France still has an agenda, along with the British, to prevent Haiti from flourishing. When I went to Haiti, I was amazed at its beauty and saw the potential Haiti has. But when one sees images from Haiti here in the States, you only see the shoeless children in the slums, but they don’t show the places that look like paradise.

HL: Haiti is not less beautiful than Jamaica, for example. Trench-town is not less dangerous then Cite Soleil. Yet Haiti has no tourism. And in any other “ghetto” around the world, they don’t bring in the United Nation to “fight crime.”

MECCA: Once again, we are going back to the hidden agenda. When slavery was at its peak, 400,000 slaves rebelled and defeated two European armies… That is embarrassing for the former colonizers. So Haiti is still being held accountable for its history, and this is why we see Haiti suffering under embargos, without trees, and so forth. This was planned.

Francesca Guerrier summarized the rest of the interview: “We spoke on the record for almost an hour. We spoke quite a bit about Haitian hip-hop artist Wyclef Jean and his work and role in Haiti. Mecca also expressed his love and passion for Haiti, his sadness about the foreign military occupation of the country and the possibility of Haiti becoming a US protectorate. He reiterated his desire to continue spreading the knowledge about Haiti’s history and bravery as the first nation to break the chains of slavery.”

All articles copyrighted Haiti Liberte. REPRINTS ENCOURAGED.
Please credit Haiti Liberte.


In RALLY/PROTEST on March 10, 2009 at 12:20 am

Wyclef Jean and Buggah D. Govanah delivering a message to the youth and President Obama with Rally organizer Marleine Bastien

By Francesca Guerrier

Over 500 demonstrators gathered in front of the remote immigrant detention jail known as the Broward Transitional Center in Pompano Beach, Florida on Saturday, Feb. 28 to demand that the Obama administration stop the threatened deportation of some 30,000 Haitians back to their strife and storm battered country.

The protest was called by Haitian Women of Miami (FANM), Haitian Citizen United Taskforce (HCUT), the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center (FIAC), the Florida Immigrant Coalition (FLIC), and the union Unite for Dignity. Officials of Miami Dade County, where most Haitians in South Florida live, assisted by providing buses for protestors coming from Miami, 30 miles south.

The rally was boisterous but peaceful and well-organized. The crowd demanded TPS (Temporary Protected Status) for Haitians, which was previously denied by the Bush administration. TPS has been granted in recent years to nine countries plagued by war or natural disasters: El Salvador, Honduras, Liberia, Montserrat, Nicaragua, Sierra Leone, Somalia, and Sudan. It allows refugees from those countries to live and work legally in the US. The designation is effective for a minimum of six months and a maximum of 18 months.

After four storms in August and September 2008 brought widespread death and destruction to Haiti, the U.S. government suspended Haitian deportations for three months. But expulsions resumed after Dec. 5, sending dozens of Haitians back to their homeland since then. Between January and December 2008, 1024 Haitians were repatriated, said Barbara Gonzalez, a spokeswoman for U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement or ICE.

In February, U.S. immigration officials announced that 30,299 Haitians were subject to immediate deportation back to Haiti.

Jonel Lemy, a Haitian-American lawyer with the Haitian Lawyers Association, told the Sun Sentinel that he has seen an increase in deportation cases in the last six months, even taking the three month reprieve into account.

“Arrests are up,” Lemy said. “People are being arrested as they drop their kids off at school or on their way to work.”

Lending visibility to the rally were hip-hop star Wyclef Jean and his younger sister Melky Jean, who is also a singer. She performed a passionate song in Krey l and said that TPS for Haitians was “only fair.” She founded and helps run the CARMA Foundation which provides shoes and other relief to poor children in Haiti.

Farah Juste, another well-known Haitian singer and activist, took the microphone after Melky to lead the crowd in an improvised song in Krey l: “Prezidan Obama, se TPS nou mande.” (President Obama, we demand TPS).

Lavarice Gaudin, a leader with the long-standing grassroots organization Veye Yo based in Miami’s Little Haiti, addressed the hundreds of demonstrators on behalf of the group’s founder Father Gérard Jean Juste, who couldn’t attend the rally due to poor health. Lavarice telephoned Jean-Juste, who then addressed the crowd by phone, which received him with warmth and enthusiasm.

“What do we want?” Jean-Juste asked. “TPS,” the crowd loudly responded.

“When do we want it?” Jean-Juste continued. “NOW!” the crowd came back.

Other speakers and singers communed with the crowd, expressing solidarity with the Haitians held in the nearby detention center.

Wyclef Jean made a surprise appearance at the rally, which delighted the crowd.. Speaking in English and Krey l, he said he had a message for President Obama, “my President, our President.”

“Haitians are strong in number but not in politics,” he said. “Haiti is the poorest country in the hemisphere. If they deport 30,000 people back to Haiti, we will see 60,000 coming to the USA the following week, only because the country is in bad shape. I left Haiti when I was 9 years old and I believed in the American dream. I think giving justice to Haitians is the American dream. My President Obama, when my parent came here, they didn’t have papers, but they worked hard for 15 years. Like in this situation, if they had been sent back to Haiti, America and the world wouldn’t have had the gift of Wyclef Jean. This is not a Haitian cause. This is a human cause.”

In an interview with Fox TV after his intervention, Wyclef noted that Haitians should receive the same treatment and rights as “my Cubans brothers and sisters.”

“Haitians need to be politically empowered in Florida,” he continued. “Otherwise we will keep on having the same problem.”

“I want to let young people know that if you don’t stand for something, you stand for nothing,” he told Haiti Liberté. “We need to be strong politically, I encourage young Haitians to study… We have to take part in the Haitian struggle otherwise we fool ourselves if we don’t stand up for ourselves.”

FANM’s Marleine Bastiene asked Wyclef why he had felt compelled to attend a rally that was not in his schedule.

“When I found out this [rally] was happening, I decided to come and ask President Obama to stop deportations to Haiti,” he replied. “Even though he’s dealing with the economic crisis we are facing, Haiti is in extreme crisis, he has to act immediately to stop all deportations to Haiti; otherwise they will have huge problems in the island which will have repercussions back in the US ultimately.”

Of the 30, 000 Haitians with deportation orders against them, 600 are in detention centers and 260 are allowed to stay at home and in their communities, although their movements are monitored with ankle bracelet transmitters.

Haitian President René Préval, who has also asked Washington to grant TPS to Haitians in the U.S., has effectively blocked deportations by having his government refuse to grant would-be deportees travel documents.

“President Obama, the time has arrived to right this wrong,” said Marleine Bastien to the crowd.

The world capitalist crisis and soaring jobless rate in the US put great pressure on Obama to deport undocumented workers, as right-wing politicians urge. But Obama has lots of political capital to lose with Haitian-Americans, one of his power bases, if their undocumented compatriots are deported. Conversely, his administration gains lots of easy political capital if it grants TPS, a very short-term measure which does nothing to address the fundamental injustice of U.S. immigration restrictions and their enforcement.

Clearly, many in the crowd had high hopes that their continued mobilization would sway the Obama administration to grant the TPS that the Bush administration denied. “We will continue to protest and take our message to Washington, and we expect President Obama to support us,” lawyer Jonel Lemy said.

All articles copyrighted Haiti Liberte. REPRINTS ENCOURAGED.
Please credit Haiti Liberte.

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