[Congressional Record: June 20, 2002 (Extensions)]
From the Congressional Record Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
WORLD REFUGEE DAY
HON. CARRIE P. MEEK
in the house of representatives
Thursday, June 20, 2002
Mrs. MEEK of Florida. Mr. Speaker, I rise today as we commemorate
World Refugee Day and to bring attention to the desperate circumstances
faced by Haitian refugees in South Florida.
Life for very many people in Haiti has unfortunately been one of
poverty, violence, and instability.
According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), since
early 2000, an increasing number of people have left Haiti due to
persecution and violence, often associated with politics. Haitians have
applied for asylum in increasing numbers in the Dominican Republic,
Jamaica, and other countries.
Mr. Speaker, the United States has had an unmatched history of
welcoming immigrants and refugees to our shores, which is why our
refusal to welcome more Haitian refugees is so especially troubling.
In addition to the desperation, and the psychological and emotional
trauma that Haitian refugees already must contend with, Haitian
refugees who make it to the United States have long been subject to
unfair and unequal treatment by the Immigration and Naturalization
Service. Hundreds of Haitian refugees with well-founded pending asylum
claims are currently being held at Turner Guilford Knight Correctional
Facility--which is supposed to be used as a maximum-security prison--
and the Krome Avenue Detention Facility, in South Florida.
Since December, the situation for Haitians seeking political asylum
in this country has become markedly worse. The INS has been detaining
Haitian asylum seekers before and while their appeals are considered,
for extremely lengthy periods of time, while many other refugees are
routinely paroled into the community.
There is clear and overwhelming evidence which shows that Haitian
refugees who come to our country seeking asylum are not treated the
same as other refugee groups.
Federal judges have long criticized the INS for its wholesale
violations of the Haitians' fundamental legal rights. A reading of
their decisions amply demonstrates that no other group of refugees has
been treated with the blatant discrimination suffered by Haitian
refugees during the past two decades.
It is extremely divisive, in a diverse community like Miami where
different ethnic groups live side-by-side, that similarly situated
immigrant groups, like Cuban and Nicaraguan refugees are given such
radically different treatment.
Mr. Speaker, I have in my hand testimonials from Haitian detainees
who are presently detained in the Turner-Guilford Knight Correctional
Facility, and the Krome Avenue Detention Facility, and I ask that these
be included in the Record.
Translation of Letter
TGK, March 4 2002
We are writing this letter today so we can explain thee
problems that we have been having since we left Haiti up
until now at TGK, We know that we were wrong to enter the
United States illegally, but we had to in order to save our
lives from the Lavalas members. When you think about it, we
were running away and what we found is worse. When we got
here, we thought that the Americans would understand us
because there are laws that protect victims of abuse and
torture. We did not leave our homes because of lack of food,
it was political problems that forced us to leave. What hurts
us more is that everyone we've spoken to has told us that
this is not the way Immigration usually treats asylum
seekers. When you look at it everyone from other nations that
have come to the United States under the same conditions as
us have been released in two or three days. We would like for
Immigration to have pity on us because we can no longer take
this. Some of us have been here for a period of time ranging
from one to three months and still are not able to get
released. This causes us a lot of sadness. Some of us have
developed high blood pressure, chest pain. Our biggest
problem right now is that all of us have some type of rash
even if we shower regularly. This might be due to the fact
that we get a change of uniform every fifteen days. We only
get a very small tube of tooth paste which we have to make
sure it lasts the required amount of days, which is not too
good for our breaths. We did not commit any crime and we are
treated like criminals. We can not even go outside to take a
breath of fresh air and get some sun. Sometimes while laying
down we think about our country, we can not sleep because our
families are still in Haiti where the Lavalas members do
whatever they want, setting people on fire, raping people. It
does not matter if you are involved in politics or not.
People always have to watch what they say, because they are
looking for reasons to kill you. Every time they want to kill
people they pretend there was a coup. It reminds us of what
happened on July 28 where 4 police officers were killed and a
cadet. December 17, 2001 they burned many houses in the
capital and the provinces. Many people died from gun shots
and some were buried alive also. Those people are always
preaching violence. In 1995 Rene Preval, Haiti's president at
the time came with a slogan stating that people need to do
whatever they have to in order to survive. Which incited
robbers to do whatever they wanted. In 2001 Aristide came
with another slogan stating there should be zero tolerance.
This slogan was against people who are not Lavalas partisans.
Many of us left our schools, universities and our jobs in
order for us to flee from the Lavalas group who is holding
our country in hostage. We arrived to the United States to
seek political asylum so we can have peace, freedom and
security but we were thrown in prison. None of the other
nations were kept in jail but us Haitians we are suffering.
We do not know why. We are neither criminals nor assassins.
Why does the INS imprison us. We ask President Bush to say
something in our favor especially when March 8 is National
Woman's Day. Have pity on us. Release us. Give us our freedom
as a gift so we can go and celebrate with all the other
women. We thank you in advance Mr. President.
Here at TGK we go through a lot with certain officers and
the white detainees. Everything that they do gets blamed on
us. We are called ``Fuckin Haitians''. We are made fun of.
Several rumors stated that we were going to get deported.
Whenever that happens we become scared because we know how
things are in our country.
Another one of our biggest problems is the food that we are
given. [The only thing we can eat is] bread twice a day,
around six or seven o'clock, we are given supper that
contains no salt and most of the time the meat or chicken is
spoiled and very bloody. Our health has deteriorated because
we do not eat well due to the fact that the food is awful, we
do not sleep well. One day one of us fainted since she was
feeling so feeble. Most of us have gotten sick. It is not
before we have filled out the clinic form seven or eight
times that we are able to go there and get medical attention.
For us who came on the boat and left Haiti on November 25,
2001 this was a big day for us because we escaped from
tribulation. After everything that we endured at sea we
thought that we would finally be delivered when we fall into
the hands of Americans. But they imprisoned us without
letting us go. Since every letter deserves an answer, we are
waiting for INS's because we can not go back to Haiti into
the Lavalas's hands.
CERTIFICATE OF TRANSLATION
I, Sarnia Michel, certify that I am fluent in English and
Creole and that I translated the foregoing letter fully and
accurately from Creole to English.
Statement of Haitian Asylum-Seeker Detained at Krome
Attempted Suicide--June 7 and 12, 2002
My name is . My A number is . I am Haitian and
I arrived on the December 3rd boat. I've been in detention
here at Krome since I arrived.
I tried to get asylum but the judge denied me. My cousin
got me a private attorney, but I don't remember his name. He
showed up for the hearing I had in February when I was
denied. I thought he was going to appeal my case, but at the
end of March I learned that he did not appeal and the due
date for my appeal had already gone by. I think my cousin
tried to find another private attorney to help me, but that
one never got back to him either. I don't know any of their
I became very depressed as the months went by because I am
still here in detention. I have nine children in Haiti who
depend on me and it is like they are imprisoned too because I
am here in detention and I can't help them at all.
On June 2, 2002, I tried to hang myself. I thought I wanted
to die rather than stay here in Krome being humiliated
everyday. We're locked up in prison here. I kept thinking of
my kids, all my little kids, and how I'm here and locked up
and not going anywhere and how I can't do anything for them.
I lost my case, they won't release us--and I don't think
they'll ever release us--and I'm not going anywhere. I don't
want to spend the rest of my life in prison and I can't help
anyone here. So I simply decided to kill myself.
I found this tube in the bathroom that had fabric at the
end of it. I made a noose from the fabric. I had the noose
around my neck and I had my Bible. I was reading some
passages out loud from the Bible and just as I was about to
pull the noose to let myself hang and die, this other Haitian
detainee, came in and saw me. He jumped and grabbed me
and held me and he told me to stop.
Then some guards came and they took me to PHS, the medical
place, at Krome. They never took me to the hospital. The
doctor said he would treat me cautiously. He said they wanted
to take me to a place for people with mental problems. They
kept me at PHS for two days--from 7 am the day I tried to
hang myself until about 7 pm the following day. The doctor
who talked to me gave me some pills to help me sleep because
I can never sleep at night.
I told the doctor not to send me to the place for people
with mental problems. I said I'm not sick. It's this place
that makes me sick. I just think of my kids, and think of how
I lost my case and how they want to keep me in prison
forever, and that's why I tried to kill myself. But I'm not
sick. They want to keep me in PHS but I told them I wanted to
be in general population so they let me go back.
I'm back in the dorm now. No one treats me any differently.
I didn't get any further counseling after I was in PHS.
I have a headache though that never stops. They won't give
me anything for it though, even though I make requests. I had
a problem where I was spitting up blood. I wrote a medical
request and they came back with a band-aid. I wrote them back
and asked what I was going to do with a band-aid when I'm
spitting up blood? They didn't respond and didn't help.
That medication to help me sleep is the only one I'm on. A
doctor comes at 9 pm each night and gives it to me. I don't
know what it's called. It doesn't matter because it doesn't
really work anyway. It doesn't help me sleep. At night when I
can't sleep I think about all my children in Haiti. I can't
get up to walk around, I just sit and think. I don't think I
even need this medicine since it's not helping me sleep and
I'm not sick.
Krome is a prison, There's not enough recreation--it's only
about a half hour each day--and we're just all locked in.
Sometimes there's no chair and we have to sit on the floor
because it's so crowded. There are about 92 to 94 people in
my dorm. I have a regular bunk but there are also cots
because there are so many people.
It's not so much that I had problems with the guards or
with other detainees, I was just very depressed because I'm
still locked up like this. And knowing that I can't help my
kids is really hard for me.
I left Haiti because I did have problems in . But I
feel like I came here and found bigger problems because they
want to keep us in prison forever here. They won't tell us
when we can leave.
Haitian Asylum Seeker, Krome
Wife and Child Transferred to Pennsylvania--May 7, 2002
My name is . My ``A'' number is . I arrived on
the boat with my common-law wife, , and my son, ,
on December 3, 2001.
I was immediately separated from my family when we arrived.
I have been detained at Krome since December. My family was
taken to the hotel.
I saw my family maybe three or four times when they were at
the hotel. We were allowed to see each other in the
visitation area when they came for court.
About a week and a half ago, I called our sponsor. Our
sponsor told me my wife and child were transferred to
Pennsylvania. No officer or anyone from INS has talked to me
about where my family is or that they were transferred. I
don't know how to contact them there. I don't know when they
were transferred, my sponsor just said that they're now in
I can't say if what's happened to my family is fair or not.
We're in jail, and we're not in control of our situation,
it's up to them [INS] what to do with us. Since we're locked
up they can do whatever they want. Only God knows why they
sent my family there.
We came to this country to escape political problems in my
country. But I was expecting better treatment than this. I
just depend on God to help us out of this.
My health is ok, but sometimes I get very depressed because
we've been locked up for so long.
I just follow instructions and do what I'm told here so I
don't have any problems with the officers here. I'm not
arrogant and I don't make problems for anyone.
Krome is really overcrowded. Even with the Haitians who
came at the airport getting released, it's still too crowded.
There were 92 people in my pod yesterday; one left last night
and one left this morning, but there have also been three new
people. They have brought cots in for people to sleep on
because there aren't enough beds.
Share this page
Bookmark this page
The leading immigration law publisher - over 50000 pages of free information!
© Copyright 1995- American Immigration LLC, ILW.COM