One and Respe!
I hope and pray that something comes out of this.
Church World Service Urging Probe into Dantica Death
From Worldwide Faith News <email@example.com>
Date Tue, 30 Nov 2004 12:49:16 -0800
CHURCH WORLD SERVICE
Ann Walle/CWS/New York, (212) 897-2654, firstname.lastname@example.org
Jan Dragin/New York-Boston - 24/7- (781) 925-1526, email@example.com
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
DEATH OF 81-YEAR-OLD HAITIAN ASYLUM-SEEKER OUTRAGEOUS9
SAYS HUMANITARIAN AGENCY DIRECTOR
Church World Service Urging Probe into Dantica Death,
Reforms in Treatment of Haitian Refugees
NEW YORK, NY- Wed Nov 24 - The head of a global humanitarian and refugee
assistance agency today decried the circumstances surrounding the November 3
death of Haitian asyl
um seeker Rev. Joseph Dantica, who died while in
custody of U.S. immigration officials.
The 81-year-old Haitian minister and humanitarian, uncle of award-winning
Haitian-American author Edwidge Danticat, died allegedly of pancreatitis
after spending four days in Krome Detention Center, where he was placed by
Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials along with his son following
their arrival in Miami. A frequent visitor to the U.S., the elderly Dantica
held a valid U.S. visa.
Following weekend memorial services for Dantica, the Executive Director and
CEO of Church World Service Rev. John L. McCullough said, "Joseph Dantica9s
death was a deep and unconscionable tragedy that must not be in vain. The
circumstances surrounding his death are outrageous and cannot be allowed to
pass by as if they did not happen."
McCullough, an African American, said, "Maybe, just maybe, this is an event
that will finally wake people and spur Congress to act fairly in its
treatment of Haitian asylum seekers."
Echoing that imperative, National Coalition for Haitian Rights (NCHR)
Executive Director Jocelyn McCalla told Church World Service (CWS) today,
"We hope Mr. Dantica9s death will serve a higher purpose in resolving the
broader issues surrounding Haitian asylum seekers."
Dantica9s family, friends, Haitian rights activists and celebrities are
calling for a federal investigation into the elderly pastor9s death while in
Department of Homeland Security hands.
McCullough and the New York-headquartered agency are longtime advocates for
equitable treatment of Haitian refugees. In April, in the wake of Haiti9s
civil rebellion and continued violence, McCullough urged then-Secretary of
State Colin Powell to defer pending deportations of Haitians now in the U.S.
and to provide Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to new Haitian asylum
In January 2003, the agency co-hosted with Senator Edward Kennedy
a national conference on the Haitian migration crisis, in
response to the October 2002 detention by U.S. Immigration and
Naturalization Service (INS) of more than 200 Haitian men, women and
"Certainly now," says McCullough, "on behalf of Pastor Dantica, Church World
Service will renew its efforts to see that our government:
o Grant Temporary Protected Status to Haitian in the United States
o Develop standards to assure that all Haitians interdicted at sea have
individual access to the asylum process
McCullough said, "We further support Congressman Kendrick Meek (D-Florida)
and others who are urging Homeland Security Secretary Thomas Ridge and
Inspector General Clark Kent Ervin to initiate a probe into Dantica9s death.
McCullough adds, "Church World Service9s Washington Advocacy Office will be
aggressively pursuing this investigation and the related policy reform
With a valid visa, even though Dantica had this time req
immigration authorities had discretionary authority to release him. To have
denied an 81-year-old man needed medication on top of detention is
appalling," said McCullough, "and sadly does nothing more but further
damage the image that our country is already suffering in the world
"Reforms must be made now to protect the rights of asylum seekers in this
country. And those reforms must be as blind as Justice in matters of race,
ethnicity, or origin. Otherwise," McCullough said, "we begin looking
peculiarly like the same axis9 that our government decries as evil."
CWS9 McCullough said most Haitian asylum seekers now in detention have
demonstrated a credible fear of persecution, have family or sponsor contacts
in the U.S., and post no danger to the community. "But," McCullough says,
"Haitians have been singled out for more restrictive treatment.
"Our screening procedure for Haitian refugees is abysmal," he adds. "Only
dicted Haitians who pass the shout test9-- loudly protesting
their return-- are asked whether they fear persecution if returned to Haiti.
"In stark contrast," he said, "all interdicted Cubans are individually
interviewed and all interdicted Chinese are given a questionnaire to fill
out to assess their fear of return."
McCullough proposed that "A process is needed to assure that all interdicted
Haitians have an opportunity to express their fear of return. "
Another rights group, Human Rights First (formerly Lawyers Committee for
Human Rights) has also called for an investigation of DHS9 handling of the
Maxo Dantica, son of the late Dantica who accompanied his father and was
also detained, reports that Homeland Security officials confiscated not only
his father9s herbal remedy but prescription medications that were needed to
control his blood pressure and treat an inflamed prostate.
DHS claimed Dantica had "no legitimate medication" with h
im, according to a
report in the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel.
Maxo Dantica, who has now been released from Krome, says immigration
officials also confiscated his own prescription drugs, prescribed to prevent
seizures related to a brain injury from a gunshot 20 years ago.
DHS detained both father and son in separate places until their cases could
be reviewed. Maxo Dantica said he was not allowed to see his father until
three days into their detention and then only briefly. At that point, his
father had become ill and was in the center9s clinic. According to members
of the family in Miami, authorities twice refused to allow them to visit the
by-then failing Dantica in Jackson Memorial Hospital.
DHS has stated Dantica9s cause of death as pancreatitis. According to a
report in Newsday (Sun 11/21), Dantica9s niece Edwidge Danticat says
authorities are claiming her uncle had a "pre-existing condition we never
knew he had."
Today, NCHR9s McCalla said, "Fr
om our perspective, the cause of death is
somewhat suspect. We don9t have the autopsy report yet. Mr. Dantica had no
history of chronic pancreatitis."
"The loss is much greater than the individual loss," said McCalla. "Mr.
Dantica was a Baptist minister who ran several schools in Haiti. He was
providing jobs and employment, providing hope for a better life to hundreds-
to young Haitians, to several teachers and people working in his church."
McCalla said Dantica had been "going in and out of the U.S. for several
years, as recently as this August, and had no issues at the border. His only
mistake this time," Dantica added, "was that he requested asylum."
CWS9 McCullough called for a "Michah 6:8 moment," referring to the scripture
verse, "Only to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your
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