[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]
28244: Hermantin(News)Authorities detain 46 Haitians in Hillsboro, (fwd)
From: leonie hermantin <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Authorities detain 46 Haitians in Hillsboro, seek boat owner in smuggling
By Brian Haas, Macollvie Jean Francois and Tal Abbady
South Florida Sun-Sentinel
April 8, 2006
HILLSBORO BEACH · As politicians in the United States fought over illegal
immigration, another boat left northern Haiti crammed with people seeking a
On Friday morning, the 45-foot cabin cruiser landed on this upscale community's
coast, giving its passengers a brief taste of South Florida before U.S.
immigration officials rounded them up. Undaunted, many vowed to return.
"I'd rather spend 50 years in prison than be sent back to Haiti," said Donald
Joseph, 32. "Haiti has nothing."
The group of 46 people, mostly Haitian nationals, streamed from the beached
boat about 6:30 a.m. hiding among vacation rentals, luxury condominiums and
mansions before being detained.
Three hours later, Hillsboro Beach police, Broward County sheriff's deputies
and U.S. immigration officials had found all of the 44 Haitians, one Cuban and
one Jamaican national who arrived in a suspected smuggling operation, said
Steve McDonald, spokesman for the U.S. Border Patrol. They were all in good
Most of the illegal immigrants are being processed for return to their
countries, but the Cuban likely will stay in the United States, McDonald said.
Meanwhile, investigators are trying to find the operator of the beached 45-foot
Swordfish cabin cruiser, which lacked any identifying information.
A Hillsboro police officer first spotted two Haitians walking along State Road
A1A shortly after 6:30 a.m., Police Chief John Ballard said. After they told
the officer how they arrived, authorities began searching for the others.
Residents in the Virginia Kaye condominium awoke about 6:50 a.m. as helicopters
buzzed overhead. Carole O'Neill walked outside her home and saw four women
crouched near some bushes.
"I felt so sorry for them," O'Neill said. "They were huddled together; they
were so scared."
O'Neill said the women immigrants fled when a maintenance man walked by.
After a few hours, authorities said they had captured all the immigrants,
accounting for most or all of the boat's passengers, McDonald said. Because the
Hillsboro Police Department did not have a large enough cell to hold all 46
people, they made a makeshift detention area out of the site used to load and
The arrivals brought to 80 the number of Haitians the Border Patrol has
detained in South Florida for the fiscal year that that started Oct. 1 and runs
through the end of September. With six months to go, that's well above the pace
set in the previous period, when authorities detailed 119 Haitians.
McDonald said packing so many people on a 45-foot boat is a dangerous venture.
But with smuggling fees of $1,500 to $3,000 per person, the business is
"They'll risk life and limb of their human cargo," McDonald said. "Each person
represents a dollar sign."
Some of the boat's passengers said they had not paid a smuggler and that the
people on board took turns steering the boat. Several cited political turmoil
for leaving Haiti and others the lack of jobs and other economic problems.
Immigration agents sent the detainees to a Pembroke Pines detention facility
about 11:20 a.m. There, authorities will begin the process of repatriating the
immigrants to their native countries.
Several of the Haitians, who have families in South Florida, asked journalists
to contact their relatives.
Elcia Philemar, of Fort Lauderdale, said she was shocked to hear that her
15-year-old son, Henri-Claude "Keke" Louis-Jean, was on the boat. Philemar said
that when she last spoke with relatives in Cap Haitien, the city where
Louis-Jean lived with his grandmother, they told her he had disappeared.
Philemar said her son might have felt threatened because his father, a former
Haitian military officer, was beaten and shot recently.
"For these young men, life there is really hard," Philemar said.
Violence and unrest is common in Haiti, making a risky voyage to South Florida
attractive. Haitian-American immigration attorney Marie Estime-Thompson, of
Miami, saw this firsthand in April 2005 when she and other members of The Lambi
Fund of Haiti, a group that raises funds for Haitian development projects, were
kidnapped at gunpoint near the airport in Port-au-Prince. They were released
"There's extreme chaos in Haiti right now that the government cannot control,"
Estime-Thompson said. "I saw how desperate people are there when my own group
was hijacked for money."
The Haitians likely will be repatriated under U.S. law.
Under the Cuban Adjustment Act, Cubans who make it to U.S. soil typically
qualify for permanent residency a year later.
Haitians with a credible fear of persecution if repatriated are sometimes
allowed to request asylum but attorneys say Haitians are rarely granted it.
"The perception is that the law is not being followed and that the Haitians are
not given asylum even when a case is made," said Jessica Lavariega Monforti, a
post-doctoral fellow in politics at Florida International University.
That troubles Haitians who arrived in South Florida years ago. Maintenance
worker Abner Desinor, 60, who came to the scene Friday, said he arrived on a
beach in 1978. Desinor said authorities held him for three days before letting
him go. He found a job and became a U.S. citizen in 1996.
"I am a little sad about it; it could have been me," Desinor said, nearly
breaking down at the sight of the young Haitian men and women being arrested.
"That's how I came here."
Brian Haas can be reached at email@example.com or 954-356-4597.
Copyright © 2006, South Florida Sun-Sentinel