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25218: Hermantin(News)U.S. policy on Haitians getting judicial scrutiny (fwd)
From: leonie hermantin <email@example.com>
Posted on Fri, May. 27, 2005
U.S. policy on Haitians getting judicial scrutiny
A judge will review a government document that says undocumented migrants
from Haiti should be held without bond because Haiti may be a jumping-off
point for terrorists to enter the U.S.
BY JACQUELINE CHARLES
In a case with wide implications for Haitian asylum-seekers, a Miami federal
judge today will consider ''top secret'' evidence in a lawsuit challenging
the U.S. government's decision to indefinitely detain undocumented Haitian
migrants on the basis of national security.
The government's decision to treat Haitians differently from other
asylum-seekers came shortly after a boat carrying 216 undocumented Haitians
and Dominicans landed near the Rickenbacker Causeway on Oct. 29, 2002.
The government blocked their release on bond -- a move taken in response to
security concerns in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Until then, Haitians could be released on bond while they filed petitions
for asylum in the United States.
Calling the detention decision senseless and baseless, immigrant advocates
filed suit seeking evidence of the government's allegations.
''One of the reasons why we felt compelled to file the suit post-9/11 is our
government is conveniently discriminating against groups like the Haitians
under the guise of national security, and there is little, if any,
accountability,'' said Cheryl Little, executive director of the Florida
Immigrant Advocacy Center.
Little's organization filed the federal lawsuit after the National Security
Agency refused to comply with its Freedom of Information Act request to see
''all of the documents forming the basis'' of the government's allegations
that releasing undocumented Haitians posed a national security threat
because Haiti was a jumping-off point for terrorists.
'The National Security Agency informed [the Florida Immigrant Advocacy
Center] it found only one responsive agreement, a one-page document with a
security classification higher than `Top Secret,' '' Little said in a press
U.S. District Judge Alan S. Gold has asked the government to bring the
document to court today for his review.
''A government official told FIAC that the document in question is so
top-secret that, in order to comply with the judge's order, it will be
couriered from Washington, D.C., to Miami and that it is against government
regulations for the judge to inspect the document in open court,'' Little
said in the press release.
Gold also will review the government's motion to have the case dismissed.
Barbara Gonzalez, an immigration agency spokeswoman in Miami, said, ``It is
U.S. government policy not to comment on pending litigation.''
In the 2002 decision to withhold bond from Haitians, immigration officials
argued that a wholesale release of Haitians would trigger an exodus from the
Caribbean nation, a development that might compromise national security by
allowing terrorists to sneak into the country among the Haitians.
The policy was later affirmed by then-Attorney General John Ashcroft.
Ashcroft based the decision in part on a State Department memo that said the
government had ``noticed an increase in third-country nations (Pakistanis,
Palestinians, etc.) using Haiti as a staging point for attempted migration
to the United States.''
The department later told The Herald that the information was based on U.S.
Embassy reports from Haiti and interdiction trends at sea.