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Implementation of Haitian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act and General Accounting Office Seventh Report on HRIFA

Haitian-American Relief Effort for flood victim in Haiti and Hurricane Frances victims in Florida

How to apply for a Haitian passport and Cutoff Dates for Immigrant Visas - March 2003 US Embassy Consular Section

Haitian Refugee Hearing-Statement of Wendy Young

Haitian Refugee Hearing-Dina Paul Parks

Haitian Refugee Hearing-Marie Jocelyn Ocean before U.S Senate Immigration Subcommittee

Haitian Refugee Hearing - Bishop Thomas Wenski

Haitian Refugee Hearing-Sheryl Little

Haitian Refugee Hearing - Jean Robert Lafortune

Slide Show - March on Washington DC

Redistricting in Little Haiti-the Fair Representation Project-A quest for self-governance

Bush Administration and Haitian Refugees Containment Policy - Update on Haitian Refugees at Krome

Haitians in South Florida to celebrate Haiti's Bicentennial in 2004

Report of the U.S State Department on Haitian Refugees

The U.S Senate Committee on the Judiciary - Subcommittee on Immigration- Hearing on Detention and Treatment of Haitian Refugees!
Written Statement by Jean Robert Lafortune - an exerpt from "200 Years of Haitian Migration" unpublished document

Good afternoon, Chairman Kennedy and Members of the U.S Senate Immigration - Subcommittee. As Chairman of the Haitian-American Grassroots Coalition, I appreciate the opportunity to present to you the Haitian Community's concerns regarding the treatment of Haitian Asylum Seekers in South Florida. The current detention policy targeting Haitian nationals effectively denies them a fair chance to pursue asylum in the United States, is unfortunately only the latest manifestation of our government's ,long, disgraceful history of discrimination against Haitian Refugees.

Indeed, despite the well-documented political repression and turmoil that have characterized life in Haiti for the past decades, refugees from Haiti have been singled out in the United States for special discriminatory treatment and the fundamental principles of refugee protection abandoned time and again.

The two-tier policy, one for Haitians and one for everybody else, is not new in U.S Government history vis-a-vis Haitian Nationals. Unfair treatment of Haitian Nationals goes as far back as 1779 when African slaves from Saint Domingue (Haiti), led by Le Comte D'Estaing, a French General who volunteered their services to help the 13 States fight the British. The strategic battle, which took place in Savannah Georgia in August 1779, marked the end of the British outpost in the deep South. To pay tribute to those brave soldiers, today, the City Council of Savannah and the Haitian-American Historical Society inSouth Florida Florida are now working together to erect a monument in memory of those "Volunteer Hunters" who shed their blood to secure U.S independence.

On August 22nd, 1791 on the eve of the bloody general insurrection of Haitian Slaves against French Slave-owners in Saint-Domingue, President George Washington was very quick to alert Napoleon Bonaparte on the need to quell the Slave Rebellion in Haiti. He directed his Treasurer and Defense Secretary to give money, weapons and ammunitions to quell the Haitian Revolution.

In 1802, while the U.S while was still in its infancy as a nation, President Thomas Jefferson got the U.S Congress to enact legislation to ban from the U.S mainland all African Slaves who had witnessed the Haitian Revolution or who had made a stopover in Haiti.

In 1804, President Jefferson introduced legislation to impose an economic embargo on Haiti. In 1806, that embargo became effective to set the stage for 200 years of a policy of isolation and economic strangulation vis-à-vis Haiti. After its independence, Haiti was very quick to spread its emancipation movement throughout Latin America by helping countries suchas Colombia, Bolivia and Venezuela gain their independence from Spain.

While the U.S recognized these newly liberated nations, Haiti had had to wait until 1863 to have its independence recognized by the U.S Government.

Haiti's biggest gift to America is the acquisition of the Louisiana Territories when Napoleon decided to sell it to America for about $.04 an acre. With the loss of Haiti, he decided he had no more military use for Louisiana. His dream of a North American Empire quickly vanished.

In addition to the U.S Congress, states like Virginia, Maryland, South Carolina enacted legislation to ban all slaves or former slaves from Haiti and the Caribbean Basin from their territory. Denmark Vesey, a former Haitian who witnessed the Haitian Revolution, organized a bloody slave rebellion in Charleston, South Carolina in 1822.

In 1915, the U.S Occupation of Haiti that was designed to quell African values and identity did not succeed and the Marines were forced to abandon the occupation in 1939. In 1915, FDR drafted the new Haitian Constitution. Once in Haiti, the American caretakers implemented a policy to take away fertile land from Haitian peasants to give them to U.S multinational corporations like the McDonald Corporation. About 40,000 Haitianpeasants whose land they confiscated were given one-way tickets by U.S authorities to travel either to Cuba or Dominican Republic to be used as cheap labor and exploited in the sugar cane fields of these countries for thebenefit of U.S Corporations. The degradation of the peasant quality of life had a serious impact on Haitian Society by creating internal migration which was exploited by Haitian politicians. The rise of the Duvalier dictatorship and the implementation of a reign of terror to maintain power has naturallycreated ideal conditions to turn that internal migration into an external migration.

In September 1969 we saw the first arrival of Haitian Refugees ("Boat People") on the Miami River, setting the stage for a profound social transformation of South Florida. All 23 Haitian Refugees on Board were denied political asylum and deported. In December 1972, another boatload
of 65 Haitian Refugees came over and, due to community outcry, they were allowed to stay. Their boat, known as Bato Saint-Sauveur (Saint-Sauveur Boat), marked a new saga between Haiti and Washington for the next three decades whereby U.S Policymakers entrenched themselves behind a simplistic immigration policy arguing that Haitians are fleeing for economic reasons only, rather than political. Forty years later, Haitian Asylum seekers today are facing similar summary decisions regarding their fate based on the race and/or nationality alone despite reports published by Amnesty International, Americas Watch and OAS regarding the steep degradation of Haiti's political environment.

Again in a sad repetition of the Government's discriminatory treatment of Haitians, today's unjust detention policy is product of the younger Bush's Administration and echoed a consistent foreign policy deeply embedded in the U.S historical psyche to contain Haitian nationals. A Haitian containment policy based on two centuries of practice has been institutionalized deeply into the federal bureaucracies. Even when the U.S Congress took action by enacting legislations to benefit Haitian nationals, i.e. the passage of HRIFA in 1998, the law was so poorly implemented that only very few benefited from it. According to the General Accounting Office April 2002 report, out of 36,300 Haitian Refugees who applied for residency under HRIFA, only 7,400 actually benefited from that law.

In addition to the indefinite detention of Haitian Refugees on the mainland, one must be aware as well that in April 2002, the Bush Administration and
the Australian Government put in place a refugee resettlement policy targeting Haitians and Cubans at Guantanamo. The Administration has sent Haitian refugees to Australia, which in turn agreed to send the US Indonesian Refugees who are unwanted. A recent communication that I received from Australia indicates that at the next meeting between President Bush and the Australian Prime Minister, an agreement between the two head of states will be signed to swap Haitian refugees in Guantanamo for Iraqi Refugees presently seeking political asylum in Australia.

Even though the discriminatory treatment of Haitian Refugees seems to be a pattern that has been pervasive throughout all U.S Administrations, we are convinced that it is so contrary to the ideals this country stands for that it is a practice that can, must and will end. We strongly believe our Government still has an important opportunity to do the right thing and release the Haitian Asylum Seekers. It should do so without delay.

Thank you!