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26211: Blanchet: (news) Asylum requests to West from Haiti rise (fwd)
From: Max Blanchet <MaxBlanchet@worldnet.att.net>
Asylum requests to West from Haiti rise
GENEVA, Sept 6 (Reuters) - Asylum requests in the West fell nearly a fifth to
156,200 in the first half of 2005 from the same period a year before,
extending a 3-year slide, but numbers from Iraq and Haiti rose, the United
Nations said on Tuesday.
France was the largest single destination for asylum seekers worldwide,
with a steady 27,400 applicants, followed by the United States, with eight
percent fewer requests at 25,400, according to the U.N. High Commissioner for
Britain and Germany followed.
Across the 24 European Union states covered by the report -- Italy's
figures arrive too late -- the drop in requests was 17 percent compared with
the first six months of 2004, and 30 percent compared with two years ago.
Serbia and Montenegro, which includes Kosovo, was the leading country of
origin with 10,800 applicants, followed by China and Russia, including the
breakaway region of Chechnya.
Eight of the top 10 countries of origin showed a decline in asylum-
seekers, with the exception of Iraq and Haiti, the UNHCR said.
"It is pretty much across the board, this decline in asylum applications
in industrialized countries," UNHCR spokesman Ron Redmond told journalists.
A lack of security in Iraq and Haiti appeared to have been a factor in
pushing requests up 31 and 20 percent to 5,700 and 5,300, respectively, he
UNHCR officials attribute the decline in asylum-seekers since 2002 to
two factors -- the end of the exodus from Afghanistan, once the main source,
and tighter asylum rules imposed by Western countries.
"Measures to tighten access to asylum have had an impact," Redmond said.
HAITIAN IMMIGRATION SCANDAL
Indicted charity trying to revive.
As a federal criminal investigation continues, a Haitian-oriented charity
facing fraud charges intends
to resume operations right away.
BY DAN CHRISTENSEN AND DARRAN SIMON
A Haitian-American charity under federal indictment for defrauding thousands
of illegal immigrants plans
to reopen Tuesday in Broward amid questions about its political ties to
Six weeks ago, a federal grand jury charged the Haitian-American Community
Help Organization with
swindling at least $3 million from immigrants. The undocumented aliens paid
HACHO $450 each for work
permits it couldn't provide and failed to deliver, according to the
During the run-up to the 2004 presidential election, HACHO used a political
pitch to lure victims to
Florida from around the country, two sources told The Herald.
Brooklyn, N.Y., immigration lawyer Joseph Famuyide said dozens of clients told
him they'd heard that
HACHO had access to a special aliens work permit program created by Gov. Jeb
Bush in an effort to win
votes for his brother, President George Bush, among Florida's sought-after
immigrant voters. ''I was asking people over and over, why Florida?'' recalled
Famuyide. ``The people at HACHO were floating that
argument just to convince people . . . People were traveling to Florida from
all over the country.''
The group's use of that political pitch was also confirmed by Lucy Orlando, a
former HACHO executive
There was no such special work permit program in Florida, however. Congress
makes laws regarding
immigration, not the states or governors.
''No group has ever been promised or received any preferential treatment,''
said Russell Schweiss, a
spokesman for Gov. Bush.
Federal agents and prosecutors declined comment while the investigation
continues. But the presence of three Broward Republican activists among
HACHO's executive officers, including one with close ties to the governor, has
raised questions about HACHO's operation.
65 YEARS IF CONVICTED
HACHO Executive Director Gomez Accime, charged with conspiracy and mail fraud
in the alleged advance-fee scam, faces up to 65 years in prison if convicted.
He mentioned his political ties in a written statement in which he pointed the
finger of guilt at two HACHO employees, one of whom is now dead.
''If I were planning to engage in fraudulent activities, I would never get so
involved in the Broward County Republican Party,'' Accime said in the
statement sent to The Herald last month by HACHO founder Al Bonnie. Accime
declined to be interviewed, Bonnie said.
Accime's Republican political mentor was Weston resident Lucy Orlando,
HACHO's ''counseling and
community advocate.'' Orlando is also president of the Broward-based Haitian-
American Republican Caucus.
Orlando, 61, a retired nurse, is a vocal, highly visible Haitian-American
activist with strong political ties to Gov. Bush. She's given generously to
both the state and national Republican parties. She held a Bush-Cheney
fundraiser at her Weston home in May 2004, and said President Bush called to
say thanks while it was going on.
According to Orlando, she worked at HACHO from time to time in 2004 without
pay to help immigrants obtain needed social services. But at the same time,
she and Accime were involved together in a number of political events.
WHITE HOUSE VISIT
In February 2004, Orlando said, she and Accime were part of a delegation that
went to the White House to
oppose then-Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Aristide was deposed
later that month.
Orlando said she and Accime also attended together the Southern Republican
Leadership Conference in Miami Beach in April 2004 and the Republican National
Convention in New York City that August. A photo of Orlando, peppered
with ''Bush for President'' buttons, ran in newspapers across the country,
including The Herald.
HACHO, based in a Lauderdale Lakes strip mall, would seem far removed from
such high-powered political gatherings. The federally tax-exempt
organization's fliers describe HACHO as a ''Haitian oriented social agency''
offering services to immigrants, including job training, financial assistance
The nature and extent of those services, and how HACHO paid for them, is
unclear. While HACHO's flier said the group was engaged in fundraising -
Lauderdale Lakes gave $10,000 in 2003 -- HACHO representatives would not
release the group's federal income tax returns.
AN OFFICIAL CHARITY
HACHO was designated a 501(c)(3) charity by the IRS in 2001. By law, federal
charities with over $25,000 in annual gross receipts are required to make
their tax returns available for public inspection.
HACHO appears to fit that criteria. Accime, in his statement blaming others,
has acknowledged that HACHO lost about $2 million.
A sign on HACHO's door, at 4693 N. State Road 7, informs the curious that
HACHO will reopen on Tuesday. Accime will still be in charge.
''Gomez will be there,'' said Bonnie, of Fort Lauderdale. ``He's still the
executive director. He has done nothing wrong.''
Accime's Fort Lauderdale lawyer, Sebastian Cotrone, echoed that assessment.
''My guy says he didn't do anything wrong,'' Cotrone said.
HACHO's political ties extended to Democrats. HACHO's letterhead boasts a
board of advisors that includes Broward Commissioner Josephus Eggelletion,
Fort Lauderdale Commissioner Carlton Moore and two aides to U.S. Rep. Alcee
But Eggelletion and Moore said last week they didn't know they were on HACHO's
board and never gave
permission for their names to be used. Hastings' office provided reporters
with a copy of a letter that one of the aides wrote to Accime more than a year
ago instructing him to remove their names from HACHO's
ORLANDO OUT NOW
Orlando was listed on HACHO stationery last year as both a board advisor and
an executive officer of
HACHO. She said, however, that her name was used without her permission and
that while she did do
volunteer work for HACHO she never held those posts.
Orlando said she split with Accime last October after news broke that two New
York agencies, including the Office of Citizenship Services in Gov. George
Pataki's office, were investigating HACHO for possible fraud. At the time,
Orlando said, she and her husband, Serge, were volunteering at HACHO.
Orlando said that because of her affiliation with HACHO, she became an object
of suspicion by some in
the Haitian community. Some of those suspicions were voiced on Haitian radio,
Orlando has not been charged with any crime.
''I heard people say I got $5 million from Gomez [Accime],'' she said last
week. ``But nobody ever
asked me. If they asked me, I'd tell them.''
Orlando also said she told Gov. Bush's office about the political pitch HACHO
used to attract immigrants
willing to pay $450 for a work permit.
The governor's spokesman, Schweiss, said Orlando contacted the governor's
office sometime after news of
the investigation became public last year. He said she ``was informed that we
cannot provide assistance in
matters of a criminal investigation.''
The Rev. O'Neal Dozier, another Republican activist on HACHO's board, said
Orlando told him months ago Accime was involved in fraud. Dozier, pastor of
Worldwide Christian Center in Pompano Beach, also said Accime claimed that
Orlando was ``trying to slander my name and trying to put the feds and Gov.
Jeb Bush on me.''
Dozier, president of the Jerome E. Gray Republican Club and a 2001 Bush
appointee to Broward's Judicial
Nominating Commission, said he became associated with HACHO because Accime
attends his church. 'He comes faithfully and I looked up one day and he came
to me and said, `Oh, we added you to our board.' I said OK,'' said Dozier. `We
gave them a donation a few times . . . I'm really not involved with HACHO.''
According to the July indictment, HACHO filed more than 10,000 fraudulent
immigration forms between April 2003 and last June.
One undocumented immigrant from New Jersey who traveled to Florida in October
2004 to get a work
permit at HACHO said she waited in line two days before an HACHO employee took
her money, filled out a form, and told her to sign it. The woman, a native of
Dominica who declined to be identified, said she later found out HACHO listed
her as a refugee.
Sidney Charles, a Miami businessman and former Bush-Cheney campaign official
who served as chairman
of Haitians for Bush, attended several meetings at HACHO last year after
meeting Accime at the Southern
Republican Leadership Conference. He said that since the indictment he has
become concerned that HACHO may have misused the GOP and might embarrass it.
One reason for concern was what Charles said was Accime's offer -- rejected --
to set up a Bush reelection operation last year at HACHO's offices.
''I told him I didn't think that was legal,'' said Charles. Federally tax-
exempt charities are not allowed to engage in partisan political activity.
Charles, too, said he was ''very concerned'' by continuing ''rumors'' in the
Haitian community and on
Haitian radio about Orlando's alleged ability to use her Republican
connections ''to make things happen''
Orlando, though, doesn't seem worried about the fraud allegations or the
rumors that she was pulling strings
in the background. ''I got nothing to do with that,'' Orlando said. ``People
are very wicked.''
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