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28603: Hermantin(News)Haitians fear arrests in terrorist-attacks plot could derail immi (fwd)
From: leonie hermantin <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Haitians fear arrests in terrorist-attacks plot could derail immigration bill
By Alva James-Johnson
South Florida Sun-Sentinel
July 12, 2006
When federal officials arrested seven men and accused them of plotting
terrorist attacks in the United States, many in South Florida's Haitian
community felt uneasy.
Two of the men are Haitian nationals, and many Haitians worry some of the
others could be of Haitian descent. That troubles many in the community who
fear the arrests could derail an immigration bill in the Senate that would
allow thousands of undocumented Haitians to legally remain in the country.
Ford Eloge, president of Total Immigration Services, a Lake Worth group that
helps immigrants attain citizenship, said distraught mothers called his Creole
radio show on WPSP (1190-AM) fearing the immigration status of their children
was in jeopardy.
"I heard people crying about it because they believe in the future some of them
won't be able to stay here," he said. "This situation has put a cloud over
Haiti. It will stop foreigners' travel to Haiti. People would consider Haitians
Last month, federal authorities arrested Narseal Batiste, Stanley Grant Phanor,
Lyglenson Lemorin, Patrick Abraham, Naudimar Herrera, Burson Augustin and
Rotschild Augustine. According to a federal indictment, they were al-Qaeda
wannabes who planned to blow up the FBI building in Miami and the Sears Tower
The seven alleged would-be terrorists belonged to the Moorish Science Temple,
headquartered in a warehouse in Miami's Liberty City neighborhood, according to
prosecutors. They are charged with two counts of conspiring to support a
terrorist organization, one count of conspiring to destroy buildings and one
count of conspiring to wage war against the government.
Abraham was in the United States illegally from Haiti and Lemorin is a legal
permanent resident from Haiti, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office. The
others were born in the United States.
"The Haitian community is very concerned that the issue may negatively impact
us," said Jean-Robert Lafortune of the Haitian American Grassroots Coalition in
Miami. "This is a big concern for the community."
It's not the first time the U.S. government has linked Haitians to terrorism.
In 2003, former Attorney General John Ashcroft directed the government to
indefinitely detain David Joseph, a 20-year-old who was among more than 200
Haitians aboard a crowded boat who reached Virginia Key a year earlier.
Authorities later deported Joseph.
Ashcroft cited national security concerns, but his decision angered some
Haitian American activists who accused the attorney general of manipulating the
terrorism issue to prevent Haitians from entering the country.
The recent arrests sparked similar fears. "This is only adding fuel to the fire
and increasing the feeling that Haitian refugees are linked to terrorists,"
said Gepsie Metellus, of the Sant La Haitian Neighborhood Center in Miami.
"We've been down this road before."
Community leaders already were worried the Haitian Refugee Immigration Fairness
Act was in jeopardy because of the battle over immigration. Passed by Congress
in 1998, it grants permanent residency to 49,800 Haitian immigrants who arrived
by boat and have been living in the country since Dec. 31, 1995.
The Senate's immigration bill includes language that would expand the act to
include Haitians who arrived by plane and children who became adults while
their parents' immigration cases were pending.
The bill, if passed, would allow 3,000 to 5,000 undocumented Haitians to remain
in the country legally, said U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek, D-Miami, who persuaded
senators to include the provisions. He said there is no evidence of terrorist
cells or training camps in Haiti.
Eloge said most Haitian Americans come to America to build better lives, and
they don't want to be viewed as terrorists.
"It's a very heavy label," he said. "It's not ours and we can't carry it."
Copyright © 2006, South Florida Sun-Sentinel