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Army Vet enters second week of hunger strike

US Citizenship Denied to Haitian man

Immigration Law favors
Cubans over Haitians

Foreign Policy Dominates US Immigration Policies

Immigration: Haitians in America Meet Requirement for TPS

Use of mask on Haitians raise protocol questions

Haiti won't accept convict from US
American Dream Become
an Immigrant Nightmare

Haitians gain Young allies
in Legal Battle


"Asylum Amnesty and Justice denied" our kind(See, "Breaking Sea Chains")

RBM Jazzoetry CD clip

Dessalines Is Rising!!
Ayisyen: You Are Not Alone!










Army Vet Enters Second Week of hunger strike


Army vet enters second week of hunger strike

By Laura Wides-Munoz - The Associated Press
Posted : Tuesday Apr 17, 2007 20:21:32 EDT
MIAMI — A Haitian-American U.S. Army veteran entered the second week of a hunger strike Tuesday to protest the detention of 101 Haitian migrants who landed in South Florida in a dilapidated sailboat.

Henri Petithomme, 32, is drinking only water and Gatorade and spoke in barely audible sentences as he described his goals.

He wants the migrants released to their families as they await their deportation hearings so they can work closely with their attorneys to prepare their cases. Ultimately, he hopes the U.S. will grant temporary legal status to Haitians who are in the country illegally, as it has done in the past for citizens from several Central American nations following major natural disasters, or in cases of major political strife or other extreme situations.

Petithomme is part of a new generation of Haitian activists who have grown up in the United States. His Haitian parents brought him to Miami when he was 3 and he speaks Creole with an American accent. He has had little direct experience with the upheaval that has beset Haiti, the Western Hemisphere’s poorest nation.

But seeing the migrants looking starved and gaunt as they came off the boat awoke something in him, Petithomme said

“I felt a calling,” Petithomme said Monday, wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with one of his homeland’s founding fathers as he rested on a pew at St. Paul Episcopal Church in Miami’s Little Haiti neighborhood.

“This is a peaceful way of accomplishing a goal, the same way Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi used,” he added.

Images of the Haitians’ arrival March 28 caused an outcry from the Haitian community. A week later, more than 1,000 people protested their detention outside Miami’s central federal immigration office.

Advocates lined up free attorneys for the entire group, which includes about a dozen children. At least half a dozen migrants passed the first step needed to seek asylum by demonstrating to an immigration officer they have a “credible threat” of persecution if they return to Haiti. Now they must plead their case before an immigration judge.

Unlike Cubans, who are generally allowed to stay if they reach U.S. soil illegally, most Haitians who make similar trips are sent back.

But immigration advocates say they are outraged that the U.S. government detains Haitians until a decision is made either way. Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center director Cheryl Little warned that the Haitians will be ill-prepared for their court hearings unless they are released from detention.

“A lot of [pro bono] lawyers don’t have time to go out to the detention centers and wait hours to see their clients before the hearings,” she said.

The government has cited potential terrorist threats as the reason for detaining the migrants, even though Haiti is not on the list of nations the Department of Homeland Security considers of “special interest” because of alleged support of terrorism. Cuba is on that list.

A message left for Homeland Security officials was not immediately returned Tuesday.

Petithomme’s campaign has garnered the attention of several Florida congressional members. Democratic U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek visited him and sent a letter Petithomme wrote to the White House. Republican U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen read the Bible with him on Monday.

“We’ve got to make sure they have a fair system so they have proper access to legal advocates,” she said. “I don’t think that’s happening now.”


U.S. Can Strip Haitian Citizenship,
Court Rules Against Haitian Immigrant

Immigration News Briefs (INB) | Vol. 8. No. 2 - January 8, 2005



Court: US Can Strip Citizenship

The Eleventh Circuit US Court of Appeals in Atlanta ruled unanimously on Jan. 4 that the federal government can strip Miami resident Lionel Jean-Baptiste of his US citizenship even though was naturalized before ever being convicted of a crime

Government attorneys typically seek to revoke citizenship of individuals accused of lying about a criminal record in their naturalization applications.

In this case, the government claims Jean-Baptiste committed a crime while awaiting approval of his application, and therefore illegally procured citizenship as a person who was not of "good moral character." Jean-Baptiste denies having committed the crime for which
he was convicted in Miami federal court. Andre Pierre, Jean-Baptiste's attorney, plans to ask the appeals court to grant a new hearing before the full court. If that fails, Pierre said he will go to the Supreme Court. He does not expect the immigration service to act on the case until all appeals are exhausted. [Miami Herald 1/5/05]--

Immigration News Briefs (INB), a weekly English-language summary of US immigration news, is forwarded out to the email list of the Coalition for the Human Rights of Immigrants (CHRI). If you receive INB as a forwarded message, and you wish to subscribe directly to INB, or to the CHRI email list (which includes INB and local NYC area events, average 4-5 messages a week), write to nicajg@panix.com
(indicate "CHRI list" or "INB only").

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Immigration law favors Cubans over Haitians
By Tim Funk
San Jose Mercury News
August 14, 2006

WASHINGTON - It's a classic case of U.S. immigration law favoring one nationality over another: Cubans vs. Haitians.

"Both are coming by boat, both are coming to Florida," says Doris Meissner, a senior fellow at the Migration Policy Institute, a non-partisan think tank in Washington. "But the law is sympathetic to the Cubans and unsympathetic to the Haitians."

Immigrants from Haiti are trying to escape poverty, chaos and violence.

Cubans get a legal break partly because they are fleeing Fidel Castro's communist regime - America's enemy for nearly half a century, says Meissner, who headed the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service in the 1990s.

But U.S. policy in this case, she adds, is also "a reflection of domestic politics."

Translation: The Cuban American community in Florida is a political powerhouse - especially in the Republican Party.

Cubans' special status can be traced to the 1966 Cuban Adjustment Act. Passed by Congress in the midst of the Cold War, it was designed to welcome those leaving the communist island - and "to poke a finger in the eye of Castro," says Angela Kelly, deputy director of the National Immigration Forum.

Cuban Americans liken those fleeing Castro's dictatorship to East Germans who managed to scale the Berlin Wall.

A Florida-bound boatlift of more than 37,000 Cubans in 1994 caused then-President Clinton to tinker with the policy.

Called "wet foot/dry foot," it says Cubans stopped at sea by the U.S. Coast Guard can be sent to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for an asylum hearing. If approved, they're sent to a third country - not the United States.

But those who make it to land still get what often amounts to automatic asylum.

Sen. Alan Simpson, R-Wyo., tried to change that in 1996, calling the Cuban act a relic and including a repeal of it in his rewrite of immigration law.

Enter Sen. Bob Graham, D-Fla. He persuaded the Senate to strip the measure from Simpson's bill and affirm special treatment for Cuba until a democratic government is elected there.

Haitians apprehended - on land or at sea - can still apply for asylum. But few get it.

In 1998, Congress passed the Haitian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act, which let certain Haitians living in the United States become legal residents.

But a Haitian and a Cuban who arrive in the same boat still can be treated differently under the law.

"One goes to the detention center," says federal immigration spokesman Michael Defensor. "The other goes to (Miami's) Little Havana."

Join the FreeHaitiMovement
See, Haiti's Elections Failed Rural Voters

Foreign policy often dominates U.S. immigration policy By Tim Funk and Danica Coto
Kansas City Star
August 14, 2006

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - In a national debate fixated on Mexicans sneaking across the border, there's been barely a peep about how arbitrary and political U.S. immigration law can be.

Congress, the White House and U.S. immigration agencies have developed over the years a complex patchwork system that favors some groups and nationalities over others.

Did you know that:

220,000 Salvadorans - many of them illegal immigrants now living in the Carolinas - can legally stay and work because the Bush administration has offered them "temporary protected status" for the past five years?

Irish-American members of Congress - including Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass. - were able to set aside thousands of "green cards," a path of eventual citizenship, for thousands of Irish immigrants?

Cubans who make it to U.S. soil can legally stay and apply a year and a day later for permanent residency? Those fleeing the communist Castro regime are probably the biggest winners in the U.S. immigration game.

Most Cubans who leave make the dangerous 100-mile trip by boat. But in October 2004, Charlotte's Jocelyn Honorate did what a growing number of Cubans do: She flew to Mexico, then headed for the U.S. Border Patrol checkpoint in Hidalgo, Texas.

"I'm Cuban," she told the guard.

A few days later, she was released, leaving behind clothing for other detainees - Haitians, Guatemalans and others - who eventually would be sent back home.

"It was hard talking with them," remembers Honorate, now 26 and a legal U.S. resident who works for a Charlotte architectural firm. "They were people without hope."

By contrast, Honorate and 40 other Cubans got this greeting by speakerphone: "Congratulations! You've all been approved. Welcome to the United States!"

That legal break dates to the Cold War.

Hoping to strike a blow against Fidel Castro, Congress passed the 1966 Cuban Adjustment Act.

No such blanket welcome exists in U.S. law for those who'd like to emigrate from other Communist countries - China, North Korea, Vietnam. One reason: None of those countries have an exile community with the political clout of Cuban Americans in South Florida.

After Castro's decision to cede power, the Bush administration announced plans to speed up family visas to make it even easier for some Cubans to come.

That latest step "has more to do with a handful of political races in Florida in November than with rebuilding Cuba," charged the Federal for American Immigration Reform, a group that wants tougher immigration laws.

Angela Kelly of the National Immigration Forum, which wants more welcoming laws for immigrants, agrees: "You can't deny the high degree of influence by the Cuban lobby."

Ditto the Irish lobby, which has long had pull with powerful Irish-American politicians in Congress.

In the late 1980s, Rep. Brian Donnelly, D-Mass., added amendments that enabled more than 10,000 illegal Irish immigrants to get legal status. And in 1990, Rep. Brian Morrison, D-Conn, was able to set aside 40 percent of 40,000 so-called "diversity visas" for natives of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

One of Morrison's allies: Sen. Kennedy, whose office said his efforts were aimed at the unintended consequences of a 1965 law that made it harder for Irish to come because most no longer had immediate family here.

"He wants to help the Irish and others who don't have family connections and have no other way to emigrate," said Kennedy spokeswoman Laura Capps.

The lesson: It never hurts to have a U.S. senator on your side.

Or a U.S. president.

El Salvador became a "temporary protected status" (TPS) country in 2001, following two earthquakes that killed 1,000 people and destroyed more than 200,000 homes.

After intense lobbying by the Salvadoran government, the TPS was just extended for another 12 months. That means Salvadorans who were living in the United States in 2001 - many of them illegally - can stay and work for another year. TPS comes up for renewal or termination every 12 to 18 months.

TPS is designed to aid countries reeling from a natural disaster, civil war or other destabilizing situation. But nations that qualify have been denied.

Pakistan had 80,000 people die in an earthquake last year. It doesn't have TPS even though 50 groups and 34 members of Congress have asked for it.

The government of Colombia has also asked for TPS, to no avail, even though the South American country is plagued by guerilla conflict and narco-terrorists.

And why has Haiti's request for TPS been denied? With poverty, violence and unstable governments, "what nation has suffered more?" asks Joan Friedland of the National Immigration Law Center, which promotes the rights of low-income immigrants.

Meanwhile, some of the seven TPS-designated countries get extensions though their disasters happened long ago. Christopher Bentley of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services says "assessments" and "studies" help decide whether to extend TPS and whether holders can return safely home.

But some experts see politics in the process, saying President Bush is using TPS to boost the pro-American government in El Salvador, as other Latin American countries such as Venezuela and Bolivia flirt with anti-Americanism.

Salvadoran President Antonio Saca sent 400 troops to Iraq. And El Salvador was the first nation to implement CAFTA - Bush's trade pact with Central American countries.

Salvadorans in the United States send home $2.5 billion every year - $250 million of it from TPS holders. Keeping those "remittances" flowing to voting families in El Salvador is a political plus for Saca and his conservative party.

El Salvador's TPS designation "has to be political," says Charlotte immigration attorney Phillip Turtletaub, who represents some local TPS holders. "Those (earthquakes) happened years ago. Come on!"

Being pro-American and sending troops to Iraq are no guarantees of winning the immigration game, however.

Poland, which ordered troops to Iraq too, would like better immigration benefits. Polish citizens who want to visit the United States are irked that they have to get tourist visas. They want to be part of America's "visa waiver" program, along with 27 other staunch U.S. allies. Citizens of those countries need only a passport to visit the United States.

This year, the U.S. Senate approved an amendment to its immigration reform package that would exempt Poles from the visa requirement. Among the sponsors: Sen. Barbara Mikulski, the great-granddaughter of Polish immigrants.

But it's not law yet, and there's also the pesky truth that many Poles who do come to the U.S. don't return home, making them illegal immigrants.

Still, U.S. politicians who visit the ex-Soviet block country say the Poles feel like second-class friends.

Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., says he was peppered with the same question: "Why don't you treat us the same?"

Fairness has never been a requirement or a tradition in fashioning U.S. immigration law. Since 1875, when the Supreme Court ruled that immigration is a federal matter, Congress has felt free to discriminate.

"Immigration law is so wide open that Congress could, theoretically, pass a law saying only 6-foot-tall, blue-eyed Norwegians can come," says Dan Kowalski of Bender's Immigration Bulletin, an online guide to U.S. immigration news.

It's never gotten that wacky, but Congress did vote in 1882 to ban Chinese immigration - a law that wasn't repealed until 1943.

From the 1920s until the 1960s, immigration quotas also gave preference to white Northern Europeans.

Since then, a host of factors ranging from foreign policy to political clout have shaped laws and rules about who can come legally and who can't.

U.S. immigration officials can cite reasons," says Josh Bernstein, director of federal policy at the National Immigration Law Center.

But, he adds, "at the individual level, (the system) is unfair. Immigration policy is a hodgepodge of measures and standards that are always made in a compromise of policy and politics."

Making special cases for some nations' immigrants has its defenders.

Honorate, the Cuban woman who moved to Charlotte, says living under communism is something not even the poorest Mexicans have had to endure. She still gets angry about government policies and the suffering in Cuba. She remembers authorities removing air conditioning from a family car so everyone "could be equal."

Also grateful: Jose Romero, a 31-year-old Charlotte construction worker who now earns three times what he did in his native El Salvador.

He got TPS five years ago after living in the U.S. illegally for five years.

Romero told his fellow construction workers, most of them Mexican, about his TPS. They were happy for him, but jealous.

"They're never going to give us anything," he said the Mexicans told him.

Now Romero has peace of mind.

"You're free and you're happy," he said. "It's the freedom of having a piece of paper that everyone wants."

Editorial: Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel


Efforts to build a prosperous Haiti could get a needed boost if the United States would grant thousands of Haitians in America temporary protective status, or TPS.

U.S. law provides for TPS designation to people who flee their homeland after a natural disaster or at times of "extraordinary and temporary conditions." Haitians, who have been hit by hurricanes as well as political storms, qualify on both counts.

By granting TPS, those Haitians already in the United States could avoid deportation, and detention, and instead get access to work permits and permission to travel abroad. TPS benefits are granted for 12 months to 18 months, so they are not a path to permanent residency or status.

TPS isn't available to people living abroad. So it's not an open invitation to flee to America.

Washington bestowed TPS on Central Americans after Hurricane Mitch in the late 1990s. The U.S. government has also granted TPS protection to Somalis and Sudanese who can't return to their countries because of political strife.

Haitians, who have experienced their share of tempests, should be included on the list. Despite the hope offered by the election of a new government, led by President René Préval, Haiti faces a tough uphill challenge to rebuild social institutions and develop a functional economy.

Deporting Haitians from America could undermine Haiti's progress. Haiti would benefit more if these individuals could remain in America for the moment, working and sending dollars to loved ones back home.

Haitians meet the requirements for TPS, and there is plenty of support in Congress and the South Florida community for giving them coverage. But Haiti must first ask that its citizens in America be included.

President Préval should so ASAP.

BOTTOM LINE: Préval should ask for TPS, and Washington should grant it.

Use of masks on Haitians raise protocol questions
By Daphne Duret |Palm Beach Post | October 07, 2006

America smelled like cut grass, lingering exhaust fumes and the faint aroma of a home-cooked breakfast near the intersection of Manatee Cove and Horseshoe Point roads.

Each Haitian man had inhaled and exhaled the scent a thousand times that morning, their first breaths in America between the moment Bahamian smugglers let them off the boat just south of Stuart and the time they were caught and began their journey to the end of freedom.

David Spencer/The Post
Haitian men captured in September after coming ashore in Martin County were made to wear masks by the sheriff's office.

Authorities rounded them up early Sept. 15, some of them just minutes after they came ashore.

Ten of them sat at the intersection in the Rocky Point neighborhood around 9 a.m. as they waited to board the Martin County Sheriff's Office van.

The handcuffs encasing their wrists let them know that as much as they wanted to be here, America would not be their land. The masks covering their noses and mouths let them know that even the air, America's air, was not theirs.

"I said, 'They're treating them like animals,' " Faye Robertson of Lake Worth said when she saw images of the men in the newspaper the next day. "I was so appalled. I said, 'This is racism.' "

Deputies said they put masks on the men to keep themselves and the general public from catching airborne diseases such as tuberculosis, which are more prevalent in developing countries. The sheriff's office since has said it plans to require that deputies use the same measures with illegal immigrants from all nations, not just Haiti.

Martin County sheriff's Capt. Robert Pryor said the measure is not about who the people are or the color of their skin. Pryor said it has much more to do with safety, insurance liability and the potential of workers compensation claims for deputies who may become infected on the job if they don't take the proper safeguards.

"It's not a case of 'I don't like you or I don't like where you come from, let me put a mask on you.' It is a fact that some of these countries don't have as good a health-care system in their countries as we do in our country," he said. "They (immigrants) don't have money for health care. Most of them spent all the money they had just trying to get here."

World Health Organization studies show Haiti ranks high among Caribbean nations in infection rates for tuberculosis, an infectious and deadly but sometimes asymptomatic respiratory illness that affects millions worldwide.

The rates are especially high in developing nations like Haiti, but public health officials in recent years have become alarmed by a rising number of cases in the developed world, including deadly drug-resistant strains of the illness in parts of Europe.

Cheryl Little, executive director of the Miami-based Florida Immigration Advocacy Center, has represented the rights of Haitian immigrants in South Florida for years.
She understands the statistics and the department's desire to take precautions, but was shocked by the images of the Haitians in masks.

"I don't recall ever seeing anything like that," she said. "If I were one of those men sitting there, I would have felt terribly ashamed, embarrassed and just humiliated."
Martin County is not alone in using masks. St. Lucie County Sheriff Ken Mascara said his deputies use masks on themselves when they process immigrants, for the same reasons Martin County does.

Although deputies receive training on how airborne and blood-borne illnesses are transmitted, the practice of wearing gloves, masks and other special equipment when dealing specifically with Caribbean immigrant populations is not written into department policies.

Pryor said Martin County puts masks on the detainees because masking themselves would hurt their ability to communicate with the detainees and one another.

In Palm Beach and Broward counties, sheriff's offices give deputies protective equipment but leave it up to each deputy to decide when, where, and on whom to use it.

The Coast Guard has a list of safety protocols it uses when officers intercept immigrants from coastal waters, but officials said officers adapt the protocols to each situation. The Coast Guard uses masks only when someone exhibits symptoms of an illness or there are other reasons to believe one or more migrants has a contagious disease.

Marlene Bastien, a Haitian-American and director of the Haitian Women of Miami, said she has seen masks used on Haitian migrants a handful of times. Almost all of these cases constituted gross discrimination, she said, part of a lingering cultural perception that grouped Haitians with homosexuals and hemophiliacs as high-risk groups for HIV and AIDS in the early 1980s.

Bastien, Little and others asked why Martin deputies put masks on the Haitian men on Sept. 15 while the Bahamian smuggling suspects, Andrew Gates and Alvio Penn, were unmasked when they were captured a short while later.

The answer for Pryor is simple: Martin County sheriff's deputies caught the Haitian men, and the U.S. Office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement caught the Bahamians. If his department had captured the Bahamians, he said, they would have worn masks, too.

That day, 17 men, four women and three children from Haiti were captured after the boat came ashore. Some had made it as far south as Fort Lauderdale. They remain at a detention center awaiting a likely deportation.

On Sept. 21, a federal grand jury indicted smuggling suspects Gates and Penn on charges of bringing in and harboring aliens.

On Friday, a single folded white mask full of sand and dirt lay on the sidewalk near the intersection of Horseshoe Point and Manatee Cove roads, the only physical reminder that the Haitians were there.

"I think the message was very clear," Little said. "And it wasn't a message of welcome."


Haiti won't accept convict from U.S.

Source: UPI - United International Press

MIAMI, Nov. 9, 2006 (UPI) -- Haiti says it will not accept back on its shores a Haitian man stripped of his U.S. citizenship after serving a lengthy prison sentence for drug dealing.

Haiti's consul general in Miami, Ralph Latortue, said convicted felon Lionel Jean-Baptiste cannot be sent back to the Caribbean nation because it is forbidden by the Haitian constitution, the Miami Herald reported Thursday.

"Once he renounced his Haitian citizenship, he no longer was a Haitian citizen and we cannot give him travel papers," said Latortue. "According to our constitution, he is not entitled to have a Haitian document. As soon as he opted for another nationality, he automatically lost the Haitian nationality."

Jean-Baptiste is the first naturalized U.S. citizen ordered deported in almost 45 years.

American dream becomes an immigration nightmare

France has rejected a U.S. government request to take a Haitian-born man after Haiti refused to take him back because he renounced his Haitian citizenship.
BY ALFONSO CHARDY |achardy@MiamiHerald.com | MiamiHerald.com

Every night Lionel Jean-Baptiste goes to sleep, he hopes to wake up to a normal life again and that everything that has happened was just a bad dream.

But then harsh reality sets in. Jean-Baptiste's continued stay at the Krome detention center in West Miami-Dade is a metaphor for his life of hope and despair.

A refugee from one of the world's poorest countries, Jean-Baptiste survived a tragic sea voyage from Haiti, became a successful Miami restaurant owner, a U.S. citizen -- and then a man without a country when he was convicted of selling crack cocaine and lost his citizenship.

His American dream has turned into an immigration nightmare.

''Every day when I wake up I see myself here and I feel like I'm in hell,'' Jean-Baptiste told The Miami Herald Friday during his first interview since federal immigration officers detained him June 14.

Haiti-born Jean-Baptiste, 58, is the first naturalized American in more than 40 years to have his citizenship revoked after a drug-trafficking conviction. On Oct. 31, Haiti refused to take him back because he had renounced his Haitian citizenship when he swore allegiance to the United States.


Now, the United States is attempting to expel Jean-Baptiste to France -- but an official at the French consulate in Miami said Friday that the French consul turned down the request from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Jean Baptiste said immigration officials told him that if Paris rejected the request, the United States would turn next to the Dominican Republic.

Barbara Gonzalez, a Miami spokeswoman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said: ``Our obligation as a law enforcement agency is to carry out orders of removal as issued by immigration judges.''

Jean-Baptiste said he see-saws between hope and despair about his chances of avoiding deportation, getting out of Krome and back to his family that includes his wife Raymonde and children Sydney, 11, Naomi, 21, Pierre Richard, 30, Ronald, 35 and Lionel, 38.

Jean-Baptiste said his hopes soared when he heard Haiti would not take him back. He thought release was imminent since the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that foreign nationals who cannot be deported must not be held indefinitely.

''I fell into despair when I got this letter Wednesday,'' he added. The letter states officials intend to remove him ``to an alternate country, specifically France, of which you are a citizen''

The French consulate official said French authorities had ''no proof'' Jean-Baptiste was a citizen of France, and that as a result, he cannot be accepted. U.S. officials said the allusion to French citizenship was a mistake in the letter.

Jean-Baptiste told his story during the hour-long interview in Krome, ironically the same detention facility where he was first held for about five weeks in 1980 after he and dozens of other refugees were rescued when their overloaded boat capsized en route to South Florida.

There were 155 people on the boat when it left Haiti but only about 95 survived, he said. Upon release, Jean-Baptiste worked in a series of odd-jobs until he landed a job as cashier in a Little Haiti restaurant he eventually came to own.

After becoming a legal resident, Jean-Baptiste brought his wife and three Haitian-born children. Two more were born here.

Jean-Baptiste's biggest success, the restaurant, was also the scene of his downfall.
It was there that in March 1995, about five months after applying for citizenship, Jean-Baptiste was approached by a woman -- an undercover Miami police detective.
Jean-Baptiste said the woman asked to buy two ounces of cocaine. When he replied that he didn't sell drugs, the woman left the restaurant.

'Then she came back and asked `Where can she find or buy drugs?' '' he said. ``I went outside and pointed somewhere where she can actually purchase the drugs.''
Jean-Baptiste, who maintained he was innocent throughout the trial, said he was just trying to be helpful, not because he was an accomplice of the drug peddlers.

A year later, Jean-Baptiste became a U.S. citizen. Six months later, he was indicted and arrested. He pleaded not guilty but was convicted at trial. He served seven years in prison.

While still in prison, he received an immigration service letter advising him that his citizenship would be revoked.

Eventually a federal judge stripped him of his citizenship. An appeals court upheld the decision and the Supreme Court refused to hear the case .

Back at Krome, Jean-Baptiste is hoping no country will take him and that immigration officials will be forced to release him even if it is under supervised conditions.

He also wants to know why immigration authorities targeted him when his arrest and conviction occurred after he became a citizen. The case departs from normal practice under which immigration generally moves to revoke naturalization when an applicant has lied about his past. But in Jean-Baptiste's case, there were no accusations he had committed a crime at the time of his citizenship interview.

''All I want to know is why?'' Jean-Baptiste asked plaintively. ``I don't understand why this is happening.''



MIAMI, FL, Fri. Dec. 22, 2006: A 59-year-old Haitian migrant, who made international headlines after he was stripped of his U.S. citizenship and later denied acceptance in his homeland, was yesterday released by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials from the detention center he had called home since June.

Lionel Jean-Baptiste, a former restauranteur, was released from the Krome Detention Center following a review by US immigration officials of his case based on the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling that states that foreigners who cannot be deported cannot be held indefinitely.

And weeks after the Haitian Consulate in Miami refused to issue him with a Haitian passport for travel back to the island. Haitian officials argued that under their constitution, Jean-Baptiste was no longer considered a Haitian national as he had opted to become a naturalized U.S. citizen.

The release was welcomed by the Haitian migrant, who told the Miami Herald by phone, “I'm feeling happy, I'm with my family. I didn't even think they would release me.”

But ICE spokeswoman Barbara Gonzalez insisted that Jean-Baptiste’s released came “on an order of supervision” and added that the agency is still continuing to pursue removing him.

Jean-Baptiste is the first naturalized American to be stripped of his citizenship and in September, was ordered deported by U.S. immigration Judge Kenneth S. Hurewitz. The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last year ruled that immigration authorities could strip Jean-Baptiste of his U.S. citizenship because he was convicted of conspiring to distribute cocaine in 1997, nine months after he was naturalized.
This even though Jean-Baptiste, then 57, was arrested, charged and sentenced after he had already taken his oath of allegiance. The government filed papers in 2002 seeking to strip him of his citizenship arguing that Jean-Baptiste was not a person of "good moral character" before becoming a citizen. Jean-Baptiste arrived in the United States in 1980. – Hardbeatnews.com

Haitians gain young allies in legal battle
nbierman@MiamiHerald.com, Nov. 28, 2006

Here's a story that makes sense only in South Florida: An American law school clinic built with money seized from Cuba is suing the U.S. government on behalf of Haitian immigrants.

It's confusing, but the results could change the lives of hundreds of undocumented Haitians.

It begins in Haiti in 1991, when Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the elected leader, was ousted in a coup -- chaos and violence left thousands of Haitians scrambling for sanctuary.

Francoise Sicar, who lived in the northern town of Port-de-Paix, boarded a boat. Her father had been beaten to death years earlier, and her mother had died from heart disease. She was caught in the Bahamas, she said, and sent back to Haiti.

Several years later, Sicar made a second attempt. After about two weeks at sea in a packed boat, she and her two infant children reached shore along Palm Beach County. She remembers the date: Jan. 26, 1994.

"When you take a boat, you take a chance," said Sicar, now 38. "If I died, I didn't care. But God helped me -- he gave me life and saved my two kids."

Sicar was taken into custody at Krome Detention Center and released. In 1998, Congress passed a law called the Haitian Refugee Fairness Act that gave tens of thousands of Haitian refugees legal residence in the United States -- provided they met certain conditions.

Among those who benefited were Haitians given parole status -- a kind of immigration purgatory -- before 1996. But Sicar, and perhaps hundreds of others, were given "Orders of Release-on-Recognizance (ROR)." Lawyers who work for immigrants say ROR was a type of parole, but immigration judges disagree and ruled in 2003 and on appeal in 2004 against granting Sicar amnesty.

The Cuban end of the story picks up on Feb. 24, 1996. A Cuban-American pilot named Carlos Alberto Costa, 29, boarded a Cessna aircraft with Brothers to the Rescue, a group that conducted regular searches to aid rafters attempting to leave Cuba. He and three others on the mission were shot down by Cuban MiG fighter jets, and their bodies were never recovered.

A year later, Costa's family won part of a $188 million judgment against the Cuban government and later settled for $93 million. The Cuban government, considering the suit illegitimate, refused to pay, but the U.S. government used frozen Cuban assets to pay the families.

Costa's family donated $500,000 in 2004 to help the new law school at Florida International University build an immigration clinic, where law students help recent arrivals navigate the system. The school was founded on a mission to educate lawyers from diverse backgrounds -- about half of the students come from immigrant families.

"We have some students send their families here," said Javier Arteaga, 23, a second-year law student who meets with clients at Krome regularly as part of his clinical hours.

"I'm an immigrant myself," said Joan "Tony'' Montesano, 27, a third-year law student from Cuba. "I identify with the goal."

In October, the Costa Clinic students filed their most ambitious case yet, a class-action suit on behalf of Sicar and hundreds of others believed to be in her situation. Such complicated cases take hundreds of hours of research. Few private lawyers or nonprofit organizations can afford to take such cases.

"They basicly made a life here," said third-year student Jordan Dollar, 24, about the clinic's Haitian clients. "They've been here for well over a decade now. They came here at a time when their government was having a bloody overthrow."

Dollar became acquainted with the plight of Haitians before he entered law school and began taking trips to Haiti with a Christian ministry that builds tilapia fish farms. Sicar lives in Hollywood, has three children and works as a line cook in a Boca Raton restaurant. Two of her children are also named in the suit. A third came later.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the U.S. attorney's office, which represents the government, both declined to comment on the suit, citing policies against discussing pending litigation.

"Had they filed the [asylum] application on time [by January 1996], they still should have been eligible for relief. So I'm not sure how that's the government's fault," said Rosemary Jenks, director of government relations with Numbers USA, a Washington legal organization that favors tighter controls on immigration.

The case came to FIU through clinic advisor Troy Elder, who previously worked for Catholic Charities Legal Services.

"They kept moving the bar on us to deny these people," said Randy McGrorty, executive director of Catholic Charities Legal Services. "We're only talking about hundreds of people, not thousands, but it's manifestly unfair because these people did go to court and they did file for asylum."

McGrorty said the nine attorneys in his office work like a MASH unit, serving 1,000 clients a month. The FIU students have drafted the complaint, identified potential plaintiffs and researched the history of the Haitian Relief Act, teaching themselves new areas of the law along the way.

"We could not do a federal lawsuit. We can take people through the administrative process, all the way through administrative appeals, but we cannot go to federal court," McGrorty said.

Elder said the case will probably take several years. A judge has yet to rule on whether to certify the suit as a class action. "I think we're going to have a big battle just staying in court," Elder said. "There was really no other way to help these people."

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