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17118: (Hermantin)Sun-Sentinel-Group singled out for unfair treatment (fwd)
From: leonie hermantin <email@example.com>
Group singled out for unfair treatment
By Candace Jean
November 3, 2003
It's just over a year ago that the big boat from Haiti sailed into Biscayne
Bay and more than 200 Haitians splashed ashore to America. Today, some of
the people are still locked up at the Krome Detention Center.
They call it detention, but it's really like a criminal prison with
barbed-wire fences, prisoner garb and guards carrying guns.
Fifty-five-year-old Rochenel Charles is one of the Haitians still
imprisoned. He arrived in the United States physically strong, but desperate
for refuge after his brother had been murdered by machete, his sister
imprisoned and beaten to death, and the family farmland stolen. All because
he and his family refused to pledge their support to the controlling
political group in Haiti.
Rochenel was granted asylum by an immigration judge last February, but
government lawyers appealed and the Department of Homeland Security has kept
him detained until a final decision in his case.
However, during his yearlong incarceration, Rochenel's health has completely
deteriorated. He experiences chest pain, digestive disorders and episodes of
coughing up blood. A psychological evaluation shows that he is suffering
from critical levels of post-traumatic stress disorder and that his
prolonged detention is causing irreversible damage to his health.
But it gets much worse. In September, Rochenel was injured in an accident at
Krome that left him unable to walk. He has spent five weeks confined to a
wheelchair, and it is not clear whether he will ever regain complete
function of his leg. Regardless of the final outcome of his asylum, in the
end Rochenel comes out the loser. He is now partially disabled, and has
suffered irreparable injury to his health while in detention.
David Joseph, 19, is another passenger from the boat who is still detained.
It was his case that made national news last April when Attorney General
Ashcroft ruled that David could not be released under bond. Ashcroft stated
that Haitian boat people, unlike aliens from every other country, are not
eligible for bond because they pose a risk to national security. He implied
that Haitians are a terrorist threat to our country, which of course, is
Denied bond, David is forced to wait it out at Krome while his case makes it
way through the courts. He challenged his first asylum trial, arguing that
he had been denied a full and fair hearing. The Board of Immigration Appeals
finally agreed, and ordered that David be given a new trial. So after one
year in prison, David's asylum hearings are starting over, and many more
months of detention possibly loom ahead for him.
Again, it seems that even when you win, you lose, if you're a Haitian at
And tragically, Rose Thermitus, who is only 16 years old, is still detained
after one year. While her attorneys seek judicial review of her asylum
claim, this child spends her days in a dark depression, weeping hopelessly,
seeing no end to her indefinite detention.
Who and what are we protecting in America by detaining Rose, David, Rochenel
and the others like them? Why are we spending millions of taxpayer dollars
to destroy the bodies and spirits of Haitian asylum-seekers?
Our nation's policy of mandatory detention of Haitian boat people is racist,
inhumane and unconscionable. Under the laws pertaining to asylum,
persecution is established when a government singles out a group of people
for mistreatment based solely on their race or nationality.
Sounds like that's what we do to the Haitians.
Candace Jean is an attorney with Catholic Charities Legal Services in Miami,
who has represented many of the Haitians at the Krome Detention Center.
Copyright © 2003, South Florida Sun-Sentinel
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