Is racism behind treatment of Haitians?

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Is racism behind treatment of Haitians?

Post by admin » Sat Aug 05, 2006 8:23 am

Is racism behind treatment of Haitians?
Seattle Post Intelligencer
July 29, 2006 ... 5512.story

MIAMI -- The conference room at the law offices of Kurzban, Kurzban, Weinger and Tetzeli was crammed tight. Attorneys took turns at the microphone, their faces etched with frustration. The question they kept coming back to: Why?

Why, they asked, are Haitian immigrants singled out by the U.S. government for unequal treatment?

On this day, earlier in the year, the topic was temporary protected status, a designation the federal government can grant to foreigners allowing them to remain part time in the United States because of political unrest or environmental disasters at home.

Central Americans have repeatedly been granted protected status following hurricanes and earthquakes in Nicaragua, Honduras and El Salvador. Immigrants from Burundi, Liberia, Somalia and Sudan also enjoy such protections.

But Haitians have never obtained relief, despite decades of political turmoil, kidnappings and killings, and tribulations from tropical storms.

"Why aren't Haitians good enough for the same basic protections?" demanded Steve Forester, of the group Haitian Women of Miami.

The question has long haunted Haitians seeking refuge in the United States. But underlying it is a more provocative issue, one that some say reflects how ill-designed and blatantly discriminatory the U.S. immigration system has become:

Are Haitian immigrants treated differently simply because they are black?

Ernso Joseph, an orphaned Haitian boy, was among hundreds of migrants who waded ashore after their sailboat grounded off Miami in 2002. Though just 15 when he arrived, Joseph spent almost three years battling Department of Homeland Security officials who insisted he was over 18 and eligible for deportation. Even after a judge granted him asylum in 2003, the government kept Joseph in detention while it appealed the decision.

Last summer, after a juvenile court ruled that Joseph was a minor, an immigration judge granted him permanent residency.

"I feel like I went through a lot, but it was worth it," says Joseph, who lives in Miami and is going to school to learn English. Still, he says: "All the Haitians and all of the nationalities should get equal treatment when they come here."

At the news conference earlier this year, 6-year-old Stephann Jasmin sat curled like a kitten in his mother Jeannette's lap. Jeannette Jasmin lives under a deportation order, having escaped Haiti seven years ago after being kidnapped and beaten by political foes. Denied asylum in the United States, she and her American-born son face separation now.

Renes Ledix was there, too. His daughter, 28-year-old Renette, remains in detention after fleeing storm-ravaged Gonaives, Haiti, to join her family in Florida last year. Her father, a U.S. resident, sought to bring Renette here under provisions of a 1998 law allowing Haitians with legal status in the United States to apply for admission of their minor children.

However, Renette "aged out" - turned 21 - while the application was being processed, making her ineligible for admission. Now asylum has been refused, and officials won't release Renette during her appeals process.

What accounts for the treatment of these Haitians?

Some, like former Attorney General John Ashcroft, have said Haitian restrictions are a matter of national security - that migrants from countries such as Pakistan have used Haiti as a staging point for entry into the United States.

Haiti is not on the list of nations the U.S. Border Patrol considers of "special interest" because of alleged sponsorship or support of terrorism.

But while Haitians are uniformly detained or turned back, at least 148 immigrants from Pakistan, Iran and other listed countries were arrested in 2004-05 - and then released on their own recognizance, according U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Meanwhile, the Border Patrol apprehended 30,843 Brazilians at the Mexican border in fiscal year 2005, an increase of 258 percent over the previous year. And though Brazil's border region with Paraguay and Argentina has been labeled a source of fundraising for radical Islamic groups by U.S. officials, more than 20,000 of these immigrants were released on their own recognizance.

Consciously or unconsciously, says Alex Stepick, director of the Immigration and Ethnicity Institute at Florida International University, the American policies on Haitians are driven by racism.

But such "specific, restrictive and repressive" policies, he says, also derive from negative stereotypes of Haitians as poor, uneducated and diseased because they hail from the Western Hemisphere's most impoverished nation.

"We have this perception of Haitians being basically pathetic. It's a misperception, and it simplifies the reality of Haiti extraordinarily," says Stepick, whose book "Pride Against Prejudice" examines the backlash against Haitians who emigrate to America. "Nevertheless, it's a perception that does lie behind many of the actions of the U.S. government and general public opinion."

Immigration officials maintain race has nothing to do with their rules.

Jan Ting, an assistant commissioner for refugees, asylum and parole at the Immigration and Naturalization Service during the first Bush Administration, acknowledges policies have singled out Haitians for "undeniably harsher treatment." However, he holds that such measures are warranted to deter dangerous, and sometimes deadly, surges by sea.

"The government has a genuine fear of triggering a mass migration. Because Haiti is so close to the United States and because there are so many people in Haiti who would like to come to the United States, there is a fear ... that if we treat people too nicely or too gently and give them release from detention too quickly that will simply encourage lots of people in Haiti to make the effort," Ting says.

One such exodus occurred in 1980, when an estimated 25,000 Haitians joined 125,000 Cuban exiles in the outflow known as the Mariel boatlift. From 1991 to 1994, the U.S. Coast Guard intercepted another 69,000 Haitians.

Since then, however, the numbers have plunged. From 2000 on, the Coast Guard has discovered more Dominicans making the journey by sea than Haitians: more than 14,000 compared with some 12,000. Interdictions of Cubans aren't far behind, at more than 10,245.

Some Haitian rights advocates argue that the government's deterrance-for-safety's-sake argument also carries little weight in light of its open-door policy toward Cubans, allowing most Cubans who reach U.S. shores to apply for permanent residency one year later.

"It doesn't make any sense," says Marleine Bastien, who heads Haitian Women of Miami. "Does that mean that the Department of Homeland Security is more concerned about Haitians' lives than Cubans' lives?

"Is it a crime to want to flee for freedom, for safety?" she adds. "Why is it a crime for Haitians?"

Nowhere are these inequalities more glaring than in South Florida, where even Haitians and Cubans arriving on the same beach at the same time in the same manner are treated differently.

In April, authorities detained 44 Haitians after they landed on a beach north of Miami in a 45-foot cabin cruiser. Also aboard was a Cuban man. The Haitians were processed for removal.

The Cuban, said Border Patrol spokesman Steve McDonald, "by virtue of the fact that he's Cuban and eligible to adjust his status under the Cuban Adjustment Act will ... have the opportunity to request to stay."

Empress Verite

Recent Acts Against Haitian Immigrants

Post by Empress Verite » Sun Oct 08, 2006 2:58 pm

Greetings again:

Is this a racist act? Is it fair to ask these Haitian immigrants to wear masks? Why don't the US folks wear masks? Also, I have never seen that done before not to any other group who lands on US shores in South Florida. Why start now? Has TB broke out again in Ayiti? I also included the responses to this article because some of what the folks are saying sound outrageous but that's how folks really believe. Anti immigrant sentiments are surely rising and we better prepare.


Use of masks on Haitians raises protocol questions

By Daphne Duret

Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Saturday, 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."

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By john

October 7, 2006 07:47 PM | Link to this

I am concerned that the police dept. is being blamed of racism for protecting themselves, they risk their lives daily for everyone in this country legal or illegal immigrants.Why should they not be safe. It sounds like the police dept. is being discriminated against. Why is that OK? Why is it always made in to a race issue as soon as the police are involved? I think we should be spending more time on those issues.

By Ray Comfort

October 7, 2006 03:25 PM | Link to this

I'm an American living in Haiti and there is a whole lot of us to have a chuckle over what the Martin County Sheriff's Dept is doing. I, however am howling mad that you have enbarassed all Americans by your hideous and over reacting which sinks of racism. talk about racial profiling! As for those Americans here? We live and we live quite healthy down here.

By Boynton

October 7, 2006 02:40 PM | Link to this

This is despicable and prejudicial for placing masks on these detained illegal immigrants. it is humiliating. Where is your humanity?

By Wow

October 7, 2006 01:29 PM | Link to this

To Blondy Charles: I think YOU expressed how you feel towards them. Not one person on here mentioned any physical features. I actually find the Haitain people to be more hard working and have more culture than some of the USA citizens. I wonder if there would've been any uproar if white people had masks put on them. Do some research on the hospitalization-ockup of people who had TB years ago. It's a health issue and nothing more!

By Reality 101

October 7, 2006 12:50 PM | Link to this

They are not coming into this country legally. They need to be deported back to Haiti. That is not racism. I think ANY illegal immigrant should be deported. I welcome LEGAL immingrants.

By Reality 101

October 7, 2006 12:45 PM | Link to this

I think your article was irresponsible journalism. It would be very simple to say that it is a racism issue. But, the reality is that law enforcement comes across folks with many communicable diseases these days. Among them is HIV, AIDS, Hep C AND tuberculosis. Many folks do not even know they have it. Many folks don't offer the information. As a result, law enforcement and rescue personnel have to be treated as a precaution. It is not racism. It is common sense.

By Blondy Charles

October 7, 2006 12:31 PM | Link to this

defend your country from getting diseases from immigrants, I know exactly how you all feel about them; they are black, they are ugly, they are poor and maybe you don't like their large mouth, their big nose, or even their large eyes, isn't that right? This is how you all feel about them, you are enjoying the way they are treating them, like animals. Don't Be Pretending! You know that's racist. You just don't want to say “I hate them”. “

By Blondy Charles

October 7, 2006 12:30 PM | Link to this

Imagine if you were in their situation, living in a poor country where there is no way of making any living, wouldn't you do the same? You would probably do worse than that, you people don't understand the words: MISERY, HUNGER, because if you did all of you who are acting like a great american citizen and trying to

By Melissa

October 7, 2006 12:23 PM | Link to this

When we had LEGAL immigration through Ellis Island the immigrants were treated like animals, herded through the lines and then put in quarantine until they could be assured that they were not bringing any diseases from Europe. Those immigrants were WHITE EUROPEANS and I don't see anything wrong with that process, which my great grandparents went through, so I do not see why it should be any different for those who come to our shores ILLEGALLY, and who I will eventually have to pay for.

By Blondy Charles

October 7, 2006 12:00 PM | Link to this

Imagine if you were in their situation, living in a poor country where there is no way of making any living, wouldn't you do the same? You would probably do worse than that, you people don't understand the words: MISERY, HUNGER, because if you did all of you who are acting like a great american citizen and trying to

By Blondy Charles

October 7, 2006 11:58 AM | Link to this

to defend your country from getting diseases from immigrants, I know exactly how you all feel about them; they are black, they are ugly, they are poor and maybe you don't like their large mouth, their big nose, or even their large eyes, isn't that right? This is how you all feel about them, you are enjoying the way they are treating them, like animals. Don't Be Pretending! You know that's racist. You just don't want to say “I hate them”.

By Mary

October 7, 2006 11:47 AM | Link to this

No one knows the physical condition of the illegals when they came ashore. Alot spend many days on a boat with no water or food. They come ashore sick and weak. No one should make this into a racial issue. When an illegal comes ashore, we have a right to protect ourselves. I doubt my grandparents who came to Ellis Island were insulted they received a medical exam. They were GRATEFUL to be in the USA. Also, it's not necessary to call anyone an animal or other degrading names.

By Codi Peter

October 7, 2006 11:33 AM | Link to this

And one more thing. You all act like a bunch of dumbass who are not educated or banished in a society, if someone complained about something that made him or her feel bad, there is no reason to bark for that, not because they are black or they are from in a poor category you are supposed to treat them and blame them. I don't think they would do that to a Canadian or aEnglish immigrant. Think it that way we are all human and we are all going in the same way.

By Codi Peter

October 7, 2006 11:24 AM | Link to this

LEt's get this straight! This is crazy, all of you people who are talking here were supposed to wear a mask in a daily base because you are the one who are contaminating the nature with your diseases and you are blaming the immigrants. THis is something unbelievable.

By Nick Lentini

October 7, 2006 11:06 AM | Link to this

So let me get this straight, Illegal Hatians make it to America, and complain that they have to wear a mask when taken into custody. Anybody who sides with them shoud also be deported. You have got to be kidding me!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

By Christine Tesserot

October 7, 2006 10:12 AM | Link to this

I think that we cannot be naif. The fact of the matter is this Haitians are illegal, they do come from a very poor atmosphere and chances are they could be carrying some sort of disease. It is the duty of the state to protect its citizens. Now one can argue “discrimination” but discrimination or not these Haitian refugees find themselves, in the eye of the law, guilty. Can one argue that fact?

By flbeaches

October 7, 2006 10:08 AM | Link to this

Oh and they should go back, we cannot keep up with our own litters here let alone from another country.

By Indianapolis

October 7, 2006 10:06 AM | Link to this

There is always 2 sides to everything. Brian they may have broken the law by entering the country illegally, the law should deal with it. i'm a police officer and i understand the rights of the sher. off. to protect themselves, but being born haitian i don't think these people are animals, they still need to be treated with some kind of dignity too. Meet me for a beer we'll see if my bicep loves your adams' apple.

By flbeaches

October 7, 2006 10:05 AM | Link to this

I thought the protection of wearing the surgical masks was to prevent inhalating airborn diseases more so than the other way around to those most acceptable. Also What does this have anything to do with racism? Why does everything revolve around racism. How stuck in the past are we?? Grow up! What white cant go on black… only white on white? How about white on black… would that be better?

By Melvin Haney

October 7, 2006 09:53 AM | Link to this

Boo, freaking HOO! You liberals make me PUKE! We should put these animals back on the boats they came in, and set them adrift into the ocean to go back. Oh, I am sooooo touched by your bleeding heart piece of puke.

By liz

October 7, 2006 09:43 AM | Link to this

Karen, this is racism? Protecting us from getting an airborne disease? These are surgical masks that the paramedics wear everyday. You act as if the illegals had masking tape on their mouths. The paramedics and police have a right to protect themselves and others. In alot of countries illegals are shot & killed at the border. We give them food, clothes, a shower, etc.,and oh yeah, they have to wear a surgical mask—what a shame!

By Dorothy More

October 7, 2006 09:33 AM | Link to this


These folks broke the law – they are criminals – they entered our country illegally!

CDC and World Health Org show alarming 306 per 100,00 in Haiti infected with tuberculosis. Cheryl Little are you a little ignorant? Why don't you wake up! The American Authorities have an obligation to protect us. The Coast Guard, Sheriffs Office, the US Office of Immigration, they are in place to protect the United States of America and our legal citizens, consisting of

By Karen

October 7, 2006 09:10 AM | Link to this

Oh, this is animosity. THis is pure rracism, how could they treat human beings like this? wow.

By liz

October 7, 2006 08:05 AM | Link to this

Thank you to “Joe Lunchbox” on the good point you made about the Ellis Island immigrants. I don't understand why so many Americans are more concerned about the welfare of illegals, than they are for the welfare of our AMERICAN citizens, more specifically the elderly and young who get abused on a daily basis. Faye, stop worrying about a mask on some illegal immigrant and go volunteer your time at a child abuse or alheizmer's center.

By Joe Lunchbox

October 7, 2006 06:26 AM | Link to this

Pure, unadulterated bleeding-heart-liberal-politically-correct crapola! Ms Robertson, Ms Little and Ms Bastien should be sure to keep towelettes at hand to dab the red spots off their clothing from their poor little bleeding hearts. The real victims, potentially and/or actually, are the American people who should be protected from ILLEGAL aliens attempting to enter the country ILLEGALLY! Millions of legal immigrants were chked for illness at Ellis Island- was that racial/ethnic,discrimination?

By Boynton

October 7, 2006 06:15 AM | Link to this

Tyey are NOT welcome. Coming illegally, they are not welcome. Doesn't matter what they look like or where they come from.

By Brian

October 7, 2006 05:46 AM

As a Florida State certified Firefighter, Paramedic/EMT I feel that ALL persons in contact with such immigrants should take BSI body substance precautions in all cases. I have been exposed to TB, the individual was WHITE BSI is not a racial issue. You can be exposed to TB on an airplane and not even know it.

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