Haitians Trapped by ‘War on Terrorism’

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Haitians Trapped by ‘War on Terrorism'

Post by » Thu Jul 29, 2004 10:16 pm

Haitians Trapped by ‘War on Terrorism'

Seeking asylum, two teenage brothers reached the Florida shore— only to run aground on Ashcroft's policy of singling out Haitians.


Susan Benesch is a journalist and a lawyer who works as Refugee Advocate in the Washington office of Amnesty International USA.

MIAMI — Daniel Joseph doesn't understand why he is still locked up, or why Attorney General John Ashcroft thinks it would threaten national security to release him. Joseph fled Haiti on a wooden boat with his brother and more than 200 others last October. When, after four and a-half days at sea, he made it to Miami, the skinny 17-year-old thought he would be free.

On a muggy afternoon in July, nine months later, Daniel is still being held at Miami's Boystown detention center for children, watching other kids come and go. “Every time I make a friend, they leave. My best friend left today. Tomorrow my last best friend [will leave],” he says in the halting English he is learning. “When other kids ask me why I stay so long, I can't answer because I don't know.”

His chin on his fists, his elbows on the plastic tabletop, Daniel looks up and waits for an explanation. I tell him that Ashcroft has decided that freeing Haitian asylum seekers might threaten national security. That bizarre assessment came in an April 17 decision titled In re D-J-, which Ashcroft wrote on the case of Daniel's 18-year-old brother David, who is at the nearby Krome detention center for adults. It came after two immigration courts had agreed David could go free on bond until the final ruling on his bid for political asylum. But the attorney general chose to decide David's bond request himself, and ordered that he—and Daniel and other Haitian asylum seekers who came by boat—be incarcerated and denied bond.

Daniel blinks, swats an aggressive Florida ant off his leg, and returns to his steady, almond-eyed gaze. He hasn't yet heard what he really wants to know: how to get out. He wants to be with his family so much that every time he says the word he chants it slowly—“fahm-leee”—but his mother and father are still in Haiti, and he has been told he can't live with his uncle in Brooklyn or his cousin in Queens.

“Can I ask you a question? I don't know if it's hard or easy. If I can't live with my fahm-leee, or live with my uncle, can I go to a foster home?” At another point, Daniel asks whether he can come live at my house. “You know my situation. What can you do for me, please? You can't do nothing for me?”

Like his younger brother, David is a slight kid—technically an adult—who misses his brother and his mom, and prays a lot. To imagine him as a threat to U.S. national security is comical. But it isn't David himself who poses the threat, according to the attorney general. It's his freedom.

In re D-J-, his 14-page decision in David's case, Ashcroft wrote that Haitian asylum seekers who enter the country without documents must be locked up. Freeing them would be dangerous, he argued, because that might encourage other Haitians to board U.S.-bound boats, and such immigration “surges” would “injure national security by diverting valuable Coast Guard and DOD resources from [their] counter-terrorism and homeland security responsibilities.” The attorney general also argued that Pakistanis and Palestinians (Somehow indistinguishable to U.S. immigration officials from Haitians?) might take advantage of the route.

Ashcroft's decision shocked the lawyers who have been working pro bono for six months to free the brothers. “It was unbelievable,” said Candace Jean, who is representing both Josephs. “The attorney general is using terrorism as an excuse to justify a racist immigration policy.”

At first it looked as if the Josephs would get out. On November 6, a week after they arrived in Miami, an immigration judge agreed to release them on $2,500 bond to their uncle, Elius Deshommes. A legal resident of Brooklyn, Deshommes agreed to pay the bond and guarantee their future appearance at court hearings. But the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) immediately appealed, seeking to keep the brothers in detention.

From November through part of February, David and Daniel were held at a Comfort Suites hotel near the turnpike in south Miami. The INS (since March 1, the Department of Homeland Security) rents all 30 rooms on the hotel's fifth floor every night to hold asylum-seeking children and families, as well as those adults it cannot fit into its overflowing detention centers.

According to Tulio Espinal, the hotel manager, the Joseph brothers were kept in a room overlooking the hotel's outdoor swimming pool, and they spent hours at the window watching other kids play in the cool water and warm sunshine. Except for court hearings, Daniel was kept inside until December, when he began attending school at Boystown. David remained locked up indoors 24 hours a day.

On February 12, the Josephs were taken to a joint asylum hearing at Krome detention center—a complex on the edge of the Everglades with a shooting range for the guards and two courtrooms for the immigration judges. The Josephs had no lawyer for their asylum hearing, and David did most of the talking, trying to explain to a judge why he and his younger brother were afraid to be sent back to Haiti.

Recounting the story later, through holes drilled in a Plexiglas barrier at Krome, David said that his father owned a piece of land near Cap Haitien, the largest town in northern Haiti. One day, the elder Joseph saw that people had confiscated some of his land. When he objected, they beat him, then filled a tire with gasoline, put it around his neck, and prepared to light it. At that point, David said, a family friend rescued his father. Later, thugs visited the Joseph's house to terrorize his mother and then waylaid David while he was out walking. They burned him with a hot piece of metal, he says, pulling down his navy blue detainee's uniform to show an angry scar on his chest.

Shortly after their hearing, the judge denied them asylum. Jean appealed, and on Aug. 8, the Board of Immigration Appeals ordered the immigration court to hear the Josephs' asylum case again, in light of new evidence of political persecution. If they win, they will be released; if they lose, they will deported.

In the meantime, the teenagers have been split up for the first time in their lives. David is at Krome, along with more than 500 other men, where he works the 5 a.m. to 9 a.m. shift in the cafeteria and spends his dollar-a-day pay on phone cards. The facility looks like the detention camp that it is: dorms like boxes, uniforms, armed guards, and a fence topped with rolls of razor wire.

Daniel was sent to Boystown. There is no razor wire there, and it looks like a school. But to Daniel it feels like prison, and the routine constrai
nts and humiliations of incarceration are wearing him down. “Every day I say to the teacher, ‘Sorry, I can't follow. I can't pay attention. I look so far [away]. I think so far [away].' ” Worse, Daniel feels isolated from his loved ones. He is allowed two 10-minute phone calls a week to his relatives in the United States. If he gets an answering machine, that's it; he can't try again or call another relative. As for his parents in Haiti, he is permitted to call them once a month. But he cannot call his brother at Krome, and from February to mid-July, the brothers saw each other just once—at a joint meeting with lawyers. “I very miss him,” said Daniel. “I want to have a guest [pass] to see him.”

Despite the setbacks, separation from each other, and their bewildering position as pawns in the Bush administration's “war on terrorism,” David and Daniel hold on to the hope that they will not have to wait out the entire legal process in detention.

On March 13 that hope flared when the Board of Immigration Appeals ruled that they could be released on bond. The board rejected the government's argument that the Josephs should be detained to deter other Haitians from trying to reach the United States. (Amnesty International holds that it is a violation of international law to detain asylum seekers in order to deter others from coming.) “Bond cases before immigration judges are about what the particular alien before the Court has done, and might do. They are not about what other aliens have done or might do,” the board wrote. The Joseph brothers were entitled to freedom since they met two standard criteria, according to the board: They were not dangerous and they were likely to appear for immigration court hearings.

The Josephs are still not free because the Department of Homeland Security—an agency that was only 20 days old at the time—quickly referred their request for bond to Ashcroft. As attorney general he has the power to take and rule on any immigration case.

On April 17, he did so. But his decision, In re D-J-, which literally means “regarding David Joseph,” is not about David. In fact, he is hardly mentioned and never described.

The decision is about preventing Haitians and other refugees from coming to the United States, and it is about the awesome power of the attorney general himself. Ashcroft declared that he is “broadly authorized”—by a U.S. Supreme Court case on the detention of juveniles—to keep non-citizens in detention “based on any reasonable consideration.” And Ashcroft decided that it was reasonable to see Haitians' freedom as a national security threat.

Ashcroft also rejected the immigration judge's and board's contention that each asylum-seeker has a right to an “individualized hearing,” focused on his or her unique circumstances. Instead, Ashcroft declared that undocumented foreigners have no such right. And finally, the attorney general used his decision in David Joseph's case to declare himself the final authority on all immigration law. His decision, Ashcroft
said further, is binding and not subject to appeal. This, despite the fact that Congress assigned immigration law enforcement authority to the new Department of Homeland Security. “[Ashcroft] determines what national security is in this decision. He takes that power unto himself,” said Jeanne Butterfield, executive director of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. Butterfield said she knows of no legal means to challenge the decision.

Long after David Joseph is deported or granted asylum, Ashcroft's decision in In re D-J- will endure because the attorney general also ordered immigration judges to apply the ruling to the cases of other “similarly situated aliens.” The merits of any individual's case, then, fall by the wayside once the U.S. government declares a national security interest in incarcerating a particular group of asylum seekers.

The attorney general narrowly interpreted “similarly situated,” singling out Haitians as the only group whose freedom might threaten national security. “It's quite ironic,” said Cheryl Little, executive director of the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center, which has worked on hundreds of Haitian cases including the Josephs', “that while Cuba is on the list of countries suspected of harboring terrorists and Haiti is not, that Cubans are being quickly released, and Haitians are subjected to long detention for the purposes of national security.”

Haitians have long faced harsher treatment than other non-citizens trying to enter the U.S. without documents, but the disparity has grown since 9/11. Before then, Daniel and David probably would have been released on bond. Like other detained Haitians, they have heard that their incarceration has to do with national security, and they think that the United States believes they might be dangerous. Asked about that, David Joseph ventured a guess: “When you talk about an 18-year-old kid here, you talk about a big person who could do any bad thing. Maybe [Ashcroft] doesn't realize that I'm a small guy.”

Meanwhile, dozens of Haitian refugees have not tasted the freedom and safety they sought when they fled poverty and persecution. About 25 percent of those who came on the Oct. 29 boat won asylum and were released; about half (more than 100 people) lost their claims and were deported.

Speaking for the rest, the ones who have endured as many as nine months of incarceration, a Haitian woman in a Broward County detention center used a Kreyol idiom: “We are eating prison. We are drinking prison.”

Miami Herald: Free David Joseph

Post by » Mon Aug 02, 2004 1:53 am

Posted on Mon, Jul. 19, 2004

Free David Joseph


How much is America's national security improved by keeping a severely depressed Haitian teenager imprisoned for 20 months? What does it say about the Department of Homeland Security's ability to distinguish between serious threats and legitimate asylum seekers who ask only for refuge in America?

What has happened to David Joseph reflects how the U.S. government has mistreated Haitian asylum seekers. U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft and DHS chief Tom Ridge are most to blame. Mr. Joseph should be freed immediately on humanitarian grounds alone.

He fled Haiti after political thugs beat his father and attacked their home. Mr. Joseph bears physical scars that testify to the trauma. He was only 17 when he landed on Key Biscayne on Oct 29, 2002, with 213 other people. Had immigration authorities followed the law, they would have released him then as a minor. They should have done so, too, when an immigration judge quickly decided that Mr. Joseph could be released on bond, and again when the Board of Immigration Appeals upheld that judge.

Instead Mr. Ashcroft intervened. Claiming that terrorists were using Haiti as a ''staging point,'' he prohibited the release of all Haitians pursuing asylum. So taxpayers get to pay to imprison people fleeing persecution to deter other Haitians from doing so.

Mr. Joseph, one of the youngest and longest-imprisoned inmates at the Krome facility, still awaits an asylum decision. Is there any wonder that he was diagnosed with severe depression and post-traumatic stress disorder?

A clinical psychologist also concluded that he would continue to deteriorate in detention. But DHS denied his attorneys' request for Mr. Joseph's parole to an uncle in Brooklyn. Krome's own psychol
ogist had found him ''unhappy and sad.'' This is no way to protect national security.

Simple decency demands that Mr. Joseph be released.

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American Justice, Ashcroft style!

Post by admin » Wed Dec 01, 2004 10:27 pm

November 30, 2004

Tasha Cole/Drew Hammill
(202) 225-4506

Statement of
U.S. Rep. Kendrick B. Meek
Regarding the Deportation of Haitian Youth David Joseph

WASHINGTON, DC - Today, U.S. Rep. Kendrick B. Meek released the following statement in response to the deportation yesterday of David Joseph, a Haitian national, who had been detained at the Krome Detention Center in Miami for over two years:

"David Joseph's plight demonstrates the continuation of the Bush Administration's harsh policies toward and continued insensitivity to the plight of Haitians.

"David Joseph was one of over 200 Haitians, dozens of them children, who came ashore off Key Biscayne on October 29, 2002. He feared for his life and applied for asylum, but Joseph was promptly jailed without bond, despite a relative's offer to care for him.

"An Immigration Court ruled that he posed no threat to the community and ordered his release pending his asylum hearing, but the Bush Administration appealed this ruling -- only to be denied by the Board of Immigration Appeals, which upheld the lower court ruling that Joseph should be released into the community.

"But despite the ruling of two courts, Attorney General Ashcroft himself made sure that this young Haitian would never be released. Ashcroft ruled that it was necessary to keep David Joseph locked up on 'national security' grounds.

"David Joseph came to this country pleading for protection and freedom. Instead, the Bush Administration jailed him in what became one of the longest non-criminal detentions in Krome's history.

"I have called for TPS -- Temporary Protected Status -- for Haitians in this country, so that no Haitian is forced into unsafe conditions in a country which is still reeling from both disastrous floods and a breakdown of civil law and order. Yet David Joseph was still deported despite assurances from the Bush Administration that no Haitian nationals would be returned to Haiti if they were from areas affected by Tropical Storm Jeanne.

"He is a stranger in his own homeland, without family, in a country where beheadings, kidnappings and shootings have become a daily occurrence. Justice has not been served in the case of David Joseph."

Empress Verite

Thanks Representative Meeks

Post by Empress Verite » Thu Dec 02, 2004 1:34 am

One and Respe!

This was the right thing to do. These boys need help and we have to find a way for them and the hundreds of others who are being treated like terrorist for no good reason.


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Post by admin » Thu Dec 02, 2004 7:54 am

What was the right thing to do?

They could have chosen to reunite David Joseph with his younger brother Daniel and release them both in the care of a relative or a willing and responsible person in the Haitian community.

Instead they chose to deport David Joseph back to Haiti, where he runs the risk of being incarcerated upon arrival and killed eventually. I have visited some of the Haitian deportees in a jail at Leogane back in 2000. The conditions were extremely deplorable. I doubt very much that the conditions have improved since. In fact, from the reports we have seen recently, life for homeless Haitian kids, and even those who have a home but live in "quartiers populaires" suspected of being strongholds of Lavalas partisans, has gotten immeasurably more dangerous, to the damning shame of this so-called technocratic government of Haiti and that of its employer, the Bush administration. Back in the year 2000, Lavalas was in power. It was extremely disappointing that the Lavalas government did not do more to protect the sons of the Nation. Now Lavalas is out of power. Those who rejoiced over that should have expected a more humanitarian government, if that were their aim. Instead, we have witnessed a worsening of the situation in Haiti for its most vulnerable citizens.

Two separate courts in the United States, a lower court and a court of appeals, had pronounced themselves in favor of David Joseph and ordered his release to a relative. Attorney General John Ashcroft overruled them, in the name of national security, and ordered David Joseph's continued detention. John Ashcroft has pursued this particular case with exceptional, if not fanatical vigor. Now that he has submitted his resignation and that he is serving in a lame duck position until his replacement has been ratified, it appears like he wanted to make sure that the next Attorney General would not reverse his absurd decision which he cloaked under the guise of national security. Therefore, he decided to deport David Joseph back to Haiti. I guess that he could not find enough grounds to re-assign David to Guantanamo to wait indefinitely for a military trial as an enemy combatant. However, he must have been satisfied that the hellish conditions in Haiti provided a suitable alternative.

As my wife exclaimed when she heard this latest report: "What the hell is wrong with John Ashcroft?"

We wish David Joseph the best of the unappealing set of conditions that must surely await him, but should he die like so many others, his blood stains will lead the way to the doorstep of the Office of John Ashcroft, Attorney General of the Blue and Red States of America.

Guy S. Antoine


Post by Caroline » Tue Dec 13, 2005 11:06 pm

That Patriot Act sure was convenient. It legalized racism slicker than anything I've seen in a long time.

God help us.

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