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S. HRG. 105-485
HAITIAN REFUGEE IMMIGRATION
C_________________________________________________________ COLUMBIA LAW SCHOOL LIBRARY
3 5005 00598 0866
SUBCOMMITTEE ON IMMIG lAI S-OSI Oy
OF THE .
COMMITTEE ON THE JUDICIARY
UNITED STATES SENATE
ONE HUNDRED FIFTH CONGRESS
EXAMINING LEGISLATION THAT WILL PROVIDE RELIEF FOR HAITIAN
DECEMBER 17, 1997
Serial No. J-105-71
Printed for the use of the Committee on the Judiciary
U.S. GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE
48-763 CC WASHINGTON : 1998
KF For sale by the U.S. Government Printing Office
26 Superintendent of Documents, Congressional Sales Office, Washington, DC 20402
- J8525 ISBN 0-16-057033-6
- ( v
SENATE COMMITTEE ON THE JUDICIARY
ORRIN G. HATCH, Utah, Chairman
STROM THURMOND, South Carolina PATRICK J. LEAHY, Vermont
CHARLES E. GRASSLEY, Iowa EDWARD M. KENNEDY, Massachusetts
ARLEN SPECTER, Pennsylvania JOSEPH R. BIDEN, JR., Delaware
FRED THOMPSON, Tennessee HERBERT KOHL, Wisconsin
JON KYL, Arizona DIANNE FEINSTEIN, California
MIKE DEWINE, Ohio RUSSELL D. FEINGOLD, Wisconsin
JOHN ASHCROFT, Missouri RICHARD J. DURBIN, Illinois
SPENCER ABRAHAM, Michigan ROBERT G. TORRICELLI, New Jersey
JEFF SESSIONS, Alabama
MANUS COONEY, Chief Counsel and Staff Director
BRUCE A. COHEN, Minority Chief Counsel
SUBCOMMITTEE ON IMMIGRATION
SPENCER ABRAHAM, Michigan, Chairman
CHARLES E. GRASSLEY, Iowa EDWARD M. KENNEDY, Massachusetts
JON KYL, Arizona DIANNE FEINSTEIN, California
ARLEN SPECTER, Pennsylvania RICHARD J. DURBIN, Illinois
LEE LIBERMAN OTIS, Chief Counsel
MICHAEL MYERS, Minority Staff Director
STATEMENTS OF COMMITTEE MEMBERS
Abraham, Hon. Spencer, U.S. Senator from the State of Michigan ................. 1
CHRONOLOGICAL LIST OF WITNESSES
Panel consisting of Hon. Bob Graham, U.S. Senator from the State of Florida;
Hon. John Conyers, Jr., a Representative in Congress from the State of
Michigan; Hon. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Representative in Congress from
the State of Florida; Hon. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, a Representative in Con-
gress from the State of Florida; and Hon. Carrie Meek, a Representative
in Congress from the State of Florida ................................................................ 7
Panel consisting of Nestilia Robergeau, Haitian refugee, Atlanta, GA;
Louiciana Miclisse, Haitian refugee, Homestead, FL; Bishop Thomas G.
Wenski, auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Miami, on behalf of Most
Reverend John C. Favalora, Archbishop of Miami and member of the Na-
tional Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on Migration; Grover
Joseph Rees, former INS General Counsel; Miraan Sa, Amnesty Inter-
national, Miami, FL; and Cheryl Little, executive director, Florida Immi-
grant Advocacy Center, M iami, FL .................................................................. 26
ALPHABETICAL LIST AND MATERIAL SUBMITTED
Abraham, Hon. Spencer:
Prepared statement of Hon. Connie Mack, a U.S. Senator from the State
of F lorida ........................................................................... ......................... 24
Conyers, Hon. John, Jr.:
T estim ony ....................................................................................................... 13
Prepared state ent ....................................................................................... 14
T estim ony .................................................................. ................................. 21
Prepared statement of Hon. Carrie Meek .................................................... 22
Letter to Representative Meek from Ira J. Kurzban, Law Offices
of Kurzban, Kurzban, Weinger, and Tetzeli, P.A., dated Nov. 17,
1997 ............................................................................ .......................... 23
T estim ony ........................................................................................................ 19
Prepared state ent ....................................................................................... 20
Graham, Hon. Bob:
T estim ony ....................................................................................................... 7
Prepared state ent ....................................................................................... 8
Letter to Senators Graham and Mack from Milton R. Gonzalez, direc-
tor, BAUNIC, dated Dec. 12, 1997 .................................................... 10
Letter to Senator Abraham from Alfonso Oviedo-Reyes, attorney, and
Nora Britton-Sandigo, executive director, Fraternidad
Nicaraguense-Nicaraguan Fraternity, dated Dec. 14, 1997 ........... 10
Letter to Senator Graham from Ana Navarro, Law Offices of Michael
A. Bander, P.A., dated Dec. 12, 1997 ................................................ 11
T estim ony ....................................................................................................... 43
Prepared state ent ....................................................................................... 45
Letter to Ms. Little from Nicholas J. Rizza, national refugee coordina-
tor, Amnesty International USA, dated June 3, 1997 ...................... 50
M iclisse, Louiciana: Testim ony ............................................................................ 28
Penelas, H on. Alex: Testim ony ........................................................................... 12
Rees, Grover Joseph:
T estim ony ................................................................................................... ..... 34
Prepared state ent ....................................................................................... 35
Robergeau, Nestilia: Testimony ............................................................................ 26
Ros-Lehtinen, Hon. Ileana: Testimony ............................................................... 17
T estim ony ................................................................................................... ..... 38
Prepared state ent ....................................................................................... 41
Wenski, Thomas G.:
T estim ony ....................................................................... ............................. 29
Prepared statement of Most Reverend John C. Favalora .......................... 31
ADDITIONAL SUBMISSIONS FOR THE RECORD
Letters to Senator Abraham from:
President Bill Clinton, the White House, dated Dec. 19, 1997 ................... 55
Jose Lagos, president, Honduran Unity, dated Dec. 17, 1997 .................... 55
Prepared Statement of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refu-
gees ........................................................................................................ .......... 56
HAITIAN REFUGEE IMMIGRATION FAIRNESS
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 17, 1997
SUBCOMMITTEE ON IMMIGRATION,
COMMITTEE ON THE JUDICIARY,
The subcommittee met, pursuant to notice, at 10:25 a.m., in the
Dade County Commission Chambers, Stephen P. Clark Center,
Miami, FL, Hon. Spencer Abraham (chairman of the subcommittee)
OPENING STATEMENT OF HON. SPENCER ABRAHAM, A U.S.
SENATOR FROM THE STATE OF MICHIGAN
Senator ABRAHAM. We will begin the hearing at this time. I want
to welcome everybody to this special field hearing of the Senate's
Immigration Subcommittee, which we are conducting today in
We have quite a lot of ground to cover. I want to begin with two
brief apologies. First is that I have been struggling with some kind
of Michigan wintertime bug. I'm not sure which one it is, but we
have a fair number of them in the cold weather, and so my voice
is a little bit stressed today. If I'm not as audible as I would like
to be, I hope you will bear with me.
Also, because of other commitments, I have to be back in Michi-
gan later today, so it is, therefore, going to be my hope that we can
finish our business today by approximately 12 noon so that I can
be on that flight. So I'm going to ask all the panelists, as a con-
sequence, to please help us out.
We normally in the committee, whether it's on the road or in
Washington, limit opening remarks to 5 minutes-and we'll adhere
to that rule today so that we can get through the large number of
witnesses we have, each of whom has been invited here because I
think they have some very unique perspectives to help us in build-
ing the record, which I think can form the basis for us to proceed
Before we hear from our first panel, I just want to make some
opening comments, and I will enter my formal statement into the
record. Briefly, I want to cover a few things that I think are -essen-
tial starting points.
First of all, in 1996 we passed legislation, the illegal immigration
bill, which was designed to address a variety of specific problems
with respect to illegal immigration. I believe many aspects of the
legislation were very appropriate, and I think we're beginning to
gain some positive benefits from that.
Unfortunately, various sections of that legislation, woven to-
gether, whether it was the design or not of people who voted for
the legislation in total, have had some perverse impacts on a vari-
ety of different fronts that have been, as a consequence, issues to
be addressed by those of us in the 105th Congress. The combina-
tion of the changes to the suspension of deportation procedures and
the cap of 4,000 per year on those who could be suspended and ad-
justed, was together a very devastating set of procedures with re-
gard to people who had been in various processes seeking to have
their status adjusted here in the United States.
That, combined with the ruling known as the NJB ruling by the
immigration courts, those actions, taken together, posed obviously
some very severe potential hardships for varieties of individuals
who were in the United States seeking to have their status ad-
justed to permanent legal status.
This year in the Congress, a variety of efforts to try to begin to
address the problems that stemmed from the NJB ruling and those
changes to the immigration laws were undertaken. In the Senate,
I worked with Senators Mack and Graham on legislation, the goal
of which was to try to, in an across-the-board fashion, attempt to
not retroactively apply these standards to people who already were
in proceedings. And in the House, various actions moved forward
We won't go into all the details of these various efforts today.
Suffice it to say that, as we came to the end of the calendar year
of the 1997 session of the 105th Congress, it became clear that we
were not going to be able to pass legislation that would cover ev-
eryone who was going to be adversely affected by the retroactive
application of these provisions.
A decision, I think, was reached, and a compromise was ulti-
mately made to address as many as was possible in an initial piece
of legislation. As I think everyone knows, for the most part that
meant people from Central America, particularly Guatemala, Hon-
duras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Cuba, and Eastern Europe. For a
variety of us, it was our view that this was the first step toward
an effort to more broadly address people who were retroactively af-
In my view, as I mentioned before, what took place this year in
the ending days of the session was only a start. And while it might
be right to differentiate the individual type of relief granted to peo-
ple from different countries, I don't think anyone should be left out
of the process. I don't believe we should retroactively apply these
rules to anyone.
With that said, I want to make it very clear that my opposition
to the retroactive application of the new standards of relief should
extend to anyone, regardless of their nationality. During the de-
bate, I tried to make it clear that, in my view, retroactivity was
particularly unjustified with respect to refugees from countries not
covered by the compromise who have equities similar to those of
the Nicaraguans, Salvadorans, and Guatemalans. In recent years,
many people came to the United States under a legal or quasi-legal
status, fleeing tyrannical regimes that were either enemies of the
United States or allies whose domestic abuses were countenanced
because of the country's strategic significance in the struggles for
world freedom that were going on at the time.
I noted during the debates that retroactive application of the new
standards would likely force some of these people to leave, despite
the roots they have laid down, and the fact that the conditions they
were returning to remained dangerous.
Under U.S. law, one traditional way in which relatively large
numbers of individuals paroled into the country have gained per-
manent residence has been for Congress to pass a special law that
permits this to happen. The Cuban Adjustment Act extended pa-
role to any Cuban who reached the United States and made the pa-
rolees eligible for permanent residence a year and one day after
entry. The relief accorded to asylum applicants and others from
Cuba and Nicaragua in this year's Central American relief bill is
in that tradition as well.
The 1986 immigration act allowed nationals of Haiti and Cuba
who resided continuously in the United States to adjust to perma-
nent residence. In the aftermath of the Tiananmen Square crack-
down, Congress passed a law granting lawful permanent residence
to many of the Chinese nationals who were here in the United
States at that time. Shortly after that, Congress through statute
permitted a large number of Soviet and Vietnamese refugees who
were admitted under parole authority to apply for permanent resi-
dence. In 1996, the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Re-
sponsibility Act permitted Polish and Hungarian refugees admitted
under the Attorney General's parole authority to apply for and gain
U.S. immigration law, in my judgment, should not turn on arbi-
trary distinctions between members of different nationalities. Rath-
er, it should treat like cases alike, regardless of nationality. Thus,
in evaluating the merits of the bill we have before us today, we
must ask ourselves: Would this legislation help people who are in
circumstances similar to those aided by previous bills passed by
Congress and signed by the President? What are the consequences
of not enacting this legislation? What are the equities built up in
this country by the individuals affected by the bill?
If the legislation would help people who are similarly situated to
others aided by similar congressional acts, if the consequence of not
enacting it will be to draw arbitrary distinctions among nationali-
ties, and if the individuals affected have built up significant equi-
ties in this country, then we should move forward and enact legis-
lation promptly, in my judgment.
The goal of this hearing is to help us answer these and other im-
portant questions so we can establish a record as Congress moves
forward in deciding the fate of the legislation involved.
I am pleased that the current legislative work on Haitians and
this hearing seem to be bringing people together from a number of
different communities, and a number of the different groups who
we worked with in the last battle with respect to the Central Amer-
ican legislation. I am happy that a number of people who were in-
volved in those efforts are here today supporting the efforts to pro-
vide relief to the Haitians as well.
It is our hope that we will be able to address the Haitian relief
issue in Congress this year. I obviously can only speak for the Sen-
ate side, but when this debate took place regarding the Central
American legislation, I made it very clear that I was certainly plan-
ning to include the Haitian community in that legislation, to move
forward with respect and with promptness with respect to Hai-
tians. That's why, instead of waiting until next year to have a
hearing, we are here today, so that we can begin the next session
of Congress with a record already in place.
I would like to conclude by making a couple of comments. I
would like to thank Senator Graham, who is here today. He and
Senator Mack on the Senate side have been, in my judgment, ex-
ceptionally strong leaders with respect to each of the communities
involved. I know there are people here from their constituencies,
from the different communities within their constituencies, and I
would like to say that each of these Senators has worked, in my
opinion, without partiality to any group. They have been tireless on
a variety of fronts on the Senate side in their efforts to make sure
that the voices of their constituents were heard and heard with
Similarly, I want to complement Congressman Lincoln Diaz-
Balart and Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen because they, too,
have been very avid from the beginning and have tried to address
comprehensively these issues.
When you chair one of these subcommittees, you obviously hear
from different members. You differentiate between those who are
sincere and those who are just simply going through the motions.
The two Members of Congress from Florida that I mentioned have
repeatedly been in touch with me from the very beginning of this
process and have worked very closely with us as we have at-
tempted to address these problems.
I also want to compliment and thank my colleague from Michi-
gan, who has joined us here, my friend Congressman John Con-
yers. Thanks for coming all the way down here to be with us. I
know this is an issue that is of importance to him and one of his
top legislative priorities. Congressman Conyers happens to also be
the ranking minority member on the House Judiciary Committee,
so I think his involvement and presence here in support of the leg-
islation is very vital.
Finally, although they could not be here-I did mention Connie
Mack. But I also want to mention Carrie Meek. Because we set this
hearing up after she had made other plans, she could not be in at-
tendance. But she will be represented here today by her chief of
staff, who will be entering a statement into the record on her be-
half. I hope you will let her know that, while we miss her today,
obviously her leadership on this issue is greatly appreciated.
With that said, it's time for us to hear from our first panel of wit-
nesses. I did, as I said earlier, ask that people limit their opening
statements to 5 minutes. I think it will help us to get through the
many witnesses we have today.
The panel is obviously one well known to everybody here. We will
begin with Senator Bob Graham of Florida, to be followed by Con-
gressman Conyers, Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen, Congressman
Diaz-Balart, and to enter a statement on behalf of Carrie Meek,
Senator Graham, thank you, and thank you for your hospitality
in having us here in Florida. I think it was your initial suggestion
to me that we hold the hearing in Miami and we're delighted that
you made that suggestion.
[The prepared statement of Senator Abraham follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF SENATOR SPENCER ABRAHAM
Welcome to this hearing of the Senate Subcommittee on Immigration. The subject
of today's hearing is the "Haitian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act," whose lead
sponsor is Senator Bob Graham of Florida. Senator Connie Mack who could not be
here today, is the lead cosponsor of the bill. My colleague from Michigan, Represent-
ative John Conyers, who is also the Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Com-
mittee, has introduced the companion bill in the House of Representatives. Rep-
resentative Carrie Meek, who had the first bill on this subject, has introduced simi-
lar legislation with the same goal of providing relief to Haitian refugees. Florida Re-
publican Representatives Lincoln Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen are cospon-
sors of both bills.
Over the past year, Congress has been addressing a number of issues arising out
of the 1996 Immigration law. One of the most prominent issues involved some
changes that the 1996 law made to an important mechanism for obtaining the sta-
tus of permanent resident. This mechanism, known as "suspension of deportation,"
has been available for the past forty years for people who had been in this country
for a long time without that status. Last year's law made it much harder to get.
Moreover, it did so not only for new people coming in. The new rules applied retro-
actively to anybody not in deportation proceedings by April 1, 1997. And at least
in the preliminary view of the INS and the Department of Justice, and some of the
sponsors of the 1996 law, some of those new rules applied even to some people al-
ready in deportation proceedings at that time.
An effort began to prevent these rules from applying retroactively to individuals
here before passage of the 1996 Act. I supported that effort in my role as Chairman
of the immigration subcommittee. The most numerous group affected by the law
consisted of those who fled civil war and persecution in Central America during the
1980's. That is where much of the legislative energy became focused. I should note
that the original bill to help the Central America0ns helped everyone else in depor-
tation proceedings and did not adversely affect anyone of any other nationality.
The legislation went through various permutations, and as often happens in the
legislative process, compromises emerged that altered the original contours of the
legislation. In its final form, the bill provided different types of relief to a number
of groups of people based on whether the individuals involved met very specific cri-
teria. Those groups were Nicaraguans, Cubans, Salvadorans, Guatemalans, and asy-
lum seekers from Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. The legislation,
however, also explicitly codified the preliminary administrative interpretation that
retroactively applied to people from other countries the more restrictive new rules
for obtaining relief.
I opposed the retroactive application of the new standards of relief to all individ-
uals, regardless of their nationality. I also made clear that in my view, retroactivity
was particularly unjustified with respect to refugees from countries not covered by
the compromise who have equities similar to those of the Nicaraguans, Salvadorans,
and Guatemalans. In recent years, many people came to the United States under
a legal or quasi-legal status, fleeing tyrannical regimes that were either enemies of
the U.S. or allies whose domestic abuses were countenanced because of the country's
strategic significance in the struggles for world freedom going on at the time. I
noted that retroactive application of the new standards would likely force some of
these people to leave despite the roots they have laid down and the fact that condi-
tions they are returning to remain dangerous.
Others Members whose support was needed if any legislation was to be enacted
however, particularly in the House of Representatives, were only willing to go as
far as the final version of the legislation. Despite my reservations I supported the
agreement because on the whole it advanced the cause of fairness and the promise
that America will make good on its commitments far better than if we were simply
to do nothing. It was better to provide relief to the tens of thousands of individuals
who deserved that relief, even if we could not include everyone.
After an agreement was reached in the House on the Central Americans, efforts
emerged to include Haitians in the bill. Those efforts did not prove successful at
that time. However, the efforts spawned the legislation before us here today.
The background of the current situation for Haitians is well known to many in
Miami. On September 30, 1991, a bloody military coup ousted Haiti's elected Presi-
dent Jean-Bertrand Aristide and, in effect, turned over power to General Raoul
Cedras. This coup followed a long history of repressive military dictatorship includ-
ing the 29-year reign of Francois "Papa Doc" Duvalier and his son Jean-Claude
"Baby Doc" Duvalier. The violence and repression of the new regime, and the blood-
shed surrounding the coup which has been so much a part of Haiti's troubled his-
tory, prompted thousands of Haitians to flee their homes and head by boat for the
Following considerable discussion and a large degree of controversy in this coun-
try, many of these individuals were intercepted by the U.S. Coast Guard and de-
tained at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. There they were screened for asylum, and some
11,000 of them were found to have a credible fear of persecution and were paroled
into the United States. The others were repatriated. The screening program was
then abandoned, leading to additional controversy. The new Administration briefly
reinstated it, resulting in parole of an additional much smaller group of Haitians
from Guantanamo. It was later dropped after a direct intervention in Haitian affairs
that resulted in Aristide's return to power. The parole of these individuals was ex-
tended up until September of this year. Many are still pursuing asylum claims that
have yet to be decided. Meanwhile, dung this entire period a number of individuals
made their way to the United States or remained here on existing visas and applied
for political asylum.
Under U.S. law, one traditional way in which relatively large numbers of individ-
uals paroled into the country have gained permanent residence has been for Con-
gress to pass a special law that permits that to happen. The Cuban Adjustment Act
extended parole to any Cuban who reached the United States and made the parol-
ees eligible for permanent residence a year and one day after entry. The relief ac-
corded asylum applicants and others from Cuba and Nicaragua in this year's
Central American relief bill is in that tradition as well. The 1986 immigration act
allowed nationals of Haiti and Cuba who resided continuously in the U.S. to adjust
to permanent residence. In the aftermath of the Tiananmen Square crackdown, Con-
gress passed a law granting lawful permanent residence to many of the Chinese na-
tionals who were here in the U.S. at that time. Shortly after that, Congress through
statute permitted a large number of Soviet and Vietnamese refugees who were ad-
mitted under parole authority to apply for permanent residence. In 1996, the Illegal
Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act permitted Polish and Hun-
garian refugees admitted under the Attorney General's parole authority to apply for
and gain permanent residence.
I should note that in none of these cases were the green cards granted to these
individuals "offset" by cuts elsewhere in America's legal immigration system, al-
though in the case of the Tiananmen Square Chinese nationals, they were treated
as if they had received employment visas that were otherwise going unused.
U.S. immigration law should not turn on arbitrary distinctions between members
of different nationalities. Rather it should treat like cases alike regardless of nation-
ality. Thus in evaluating the merits of the bill we have before us we must ask our-
selves: Would this legislation help people who are in circumstances similar to those
aided by previous bills passed by Congress and signed by the President? What are
the consequences of not enacting this legislation? What are the equities built up in
this country by the individuals affected by the bill? If the legislation would help peo-
ple who are similarly situated to others aided by similar Congressional acts, if the
consequence of not enacting it will be to draw arbitrary distinctions among nation-
alities, and if the individuals affected have built up significant equities in this coun-
try, then we should move forward and enact it promptly.
The goal of this hearing is to help us to answer these and other important ques-
tions so we can establish a record as Congress moves forward in deciding the fate
of this legislation.
I am pleased that the current legislative work on Haitians and this hearing seem
to be bringing people together and that a number of the key proponents of the
Central American legislation are here today supporting the effort to provide relief
to Haitians. It is our hope that we will be able to address the Haitian relief issue
in Congress early next year.
PANEL CONSISTING OF HON. BOB GRAHAM, U.S. SENATOR
FROM THE STATE OF FLORIDA; HON. JOHN CONYERS, JR., A
REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF
MICHIGAN; HON. ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN, A REPRESENTA-
TIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF FLORIDA; HON.
LINCOLN DIAZ-BALART, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS
FROM THE STATE OF FLORIDA; AND PEGGY DEMON, ON BE-
HALF OF HON. CARRIE MEEK, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CON-
GRESS FROM THE STATE OF FLORIDA
STATEMENT OF HON. BOB GRAHAM
Senator GRAHAM. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
In deference to your request for a 5-minute limitation on state-
ments, I would like to request permission to file my full statement
and I will give an abbreviated version of it this morning.
To this community, I want to express my appreciation for Sen-
ator Spencer Abraham. Throughout this process, Senator Abraham
was open and receptive to understanding the issues and to help
shape solutions to very serious human problems. It is no overstate-
ment to observe that we would not be here today with the changes
that have so benefited many members of this community had it not
been for Senator Abraham's tremendous commitment to this cause.
I also want to thank Senator Abraham for scheduling this meet-
ing on the 17th of December, and doing it in Miami. By scheduling
it today, we get almost a 7-week jump on the next session of Con-
gress, which starts the end of January, which should accelerate the
time that the full Senate and House of Representatives will be able
to consider this matter.
By doing it in Miami, we bring the Senate to a community that
will be most affected, and has the greatest range of human experi-
ence and insights, to contribute to what would be appropriate na-
tional policy as it relates to the Haitian community in the United
With that, Mr. Chairman, as you know, on November 9 of this
year, with the sponsorship of yourself, Senators Mack, Kennedy,
Moseley-Braun, and Moynihan, the Haitian Refugee Immigration
Fairness Act was introduced into the U.S. Senate. The goal of this
bipartisan legislation is simple-to provide for the permanent resi-
dent status adjustment of Haitian nationals and their spouses who
were paroled into the United States or filed for asylum before De-
cember 31, 1995. This was legislation that not only had been devel-
oped by those colleagues in the Senate, but also by the Administra-
This bill seeks to provide justice and fairness to a very important
group of Haitians who, because of their credible asylum claims,
were flown to the United States by our Government during the
1990's. It also includes those who have had pending asylum cases
In an era in which much legislation considered in Congress has
a distinctly partisan tone, I am very proud that we have developed
a bipartisan, humane solution that has the potential to have a posi-
tive impact on the lives of thousands of people.
Mr. Chairman, as an example of this community support, I have
letters which I would request permission to file, particularly from
the Central American community, letters which include one from
Baunic, "Bloque de Apoyo a la Unidad Nicaraguense", speaking of
the commitment of that important Nicaraguan organization for this
legislation, as well as a letter from Ana Navarro, an eloquent and
dedicated spokesman for the Nicaraguan community, sharing her
support for the Haitian community, and a very supportive letter
from Fraternidad Nicaraguense.
The reason that this legislation is so important can best be seen
in human, personal terms. You will have on the second panel sev-
eral people who can communicate their own experience. But let me
speak for one who could not be here today, Miss Alexandra
Alexandra is a Haitian orphan who came to the United States on
a tourist visa when she was 10 years old. She came after Haitian
officials had invaded her home and, with Alexandra looking on,
brutally murdered her mother.
Alexandra is now 18 years old and she is self-supporting. She
holds down two jobs. The reason she could not be here today is be-
cause she is working at one of those two jobs. She also attends
Miami-Dade Community College, where she is studying accounting.
She is a model student and member of our community.
Alexandra has over a dozen relatives who are lawful permanent
residents or U.S. citizens, including her grandparents and her
American-born brother. She has virtually no relatives in Haiti.
Like many individuals with similar circumstances, Ms. Charles
was granted a suspension of deportation last year, but the relief
was withdrawn after the Board of Immigration Appeals ruled that
the 1996 immigration act retroactively affected cases likes like
Today, Alexandra Charles' future in the United States looks
grim. Without congressional help, this bright young woman's hopes
of gaining the legal residence that she needs to finish her college
degrees are slim.
Mr. Chairman, this case is just one of thousands involving hard-
working, law-abiding Haitians, people who will fall through the
cracks if legislation is not passed to protect those who have a legiti-
mate claim to an asylum hearing.
Mr. Chairman, in deference to the restraints of this hearing, I
will conclude with that one example of thousands. I again express
my thanks for your holding this hearing today. I urge prompt at-
tention by the Senate and the full Congress to this matter of justice
in our immigration law.
[The prepared statement of Senator Graham follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF SENATOR BOB GRAHAM
Thank you, Chairman Abraham, for calling this important hearing today in
I greatly appreciate the opportunity to appear before you concerning the fair and
just treatment of Haitians in the United States.
On November 9, 1997, I introduced the "Haitian Refugee Immigration Fairness
Act." The goal of this bipartisan legislation is simple-to provide for the permanent
resident status adjustment of certain Haitian nationals and their spouses who were
paroled into the United States or filed for asylum before December 31, 1995.
I am pleased that Senators Mack, Kennedy, Moseley-Braun, Moynihan and your-
self, Mr. Chairman, have joined in support of this legislation. Our bill seeks to pro-
vide justice and fairness to a very important group of Haitians who, because of their
credible asylum claims, were flown to the United States by our government during
the 1990's. It also includes those who have had pending asylum cases since 1995.
In an era when much legislation considered in the Congress has a partisan tone,
I am very proud that we have crafted a bipartisan, humane solution that has the
potential to have such a positive impact on many people's lives.
The support for this legislation crosses party lines and the lines separating the
branches of our government. I commend President Clinton's statement halting the
deportation of Haitian nationals while Congress considers this legislative remedy.
The endorsement of our effort also crosses national lines. I am proud to share
with you letters from the Nicaraguan and Central American community supporting
I submit letters of support from Fraternidad Nicaraguense and Baunic [Bloque de
Apoyo a la Unidad Nicaraguense] speaking of the "just cause" we have undertaken
here today, and the sense of brotherhood they feel they share with the Haitian com-
munity; they have both suffered struggle and unrest.
Likewise, a letter from Ana Navarro, an eloquent spokesperson for the Nica-
raguan community, shares her support for the Haitian community, describing them
as "neighbors and friends" who have "borne and raised children in' Miami and have
made "important economic, social and cultural contributions to South Florida."
The reason this legislation is so important can best be seen on a human, personal
level, perhaps through the eyes of Ms. Alexandra Charles.
Alexandra is a Haitian orphan who came to the United States on a tourist visa
when she was ten years old, after Haitian military officials invaded her home and,
with Alexandra looking on, brutally murdered her mother.
Alexandra is now eighteen years old and is self supporting. She holds down two
jobs and attends Miami-Dade Community College, where she studies accounting.
She is a model student and member of our community.
Alexandra has over a dozen relatives who are lawful permanent residents or Unit-
ed States citizens, including her grandparents and her American-born brother. She
has virtually no relatives in Haiti.
Like many individuals with similar circumstances, Ms. Charles was granted a
suspension of deportation last year, but the relief was withdrawn after the Board
of Immigration Appeals ruled that the 1996 Immigration Law retroactively affected
cases like hers.
Today, Alexandra Charles' future in the United States looks grim. Without Con-
gress' help, this bright young woman's hopes of gaining the legal residency that she
needs to finish her college degree are slim.
This case is just one of thousands involving hard working, law abiding Haitians-
people who will fall through the cracks if legislation is not passed to protect those
who have a legitimate claim to an asylum hearing.
I know that Nestilia Robergeau and Louiciana MiClisse, Haitian nationals who
will be on the second panel, also have compelling personal stories.
I also am here to share my personal story of how deeply moved I was by my trav-
els to Haiti, and my experiences at Guantanamo. I came to know many individuals
who fled horrible political persecution, and came to be housed in the sparse, harsh
environment of military tents on an unused runway.
There were countless individuals enduring these hardships without complaint,
and still, according to officers, medical personnel, non-governmental agency officials,
and others, the Haitian nationals' main worry, even in the midst of these harsh con-
ditions, were for other family members.
Close to forty thousand Haitian nationals fled the political unrest of their home-
land and came to stay for a time at Guantanamo. All were extensively screened by
immigration officials, and of that forty thousand, fewer than 12,000 were flown to
the United States to-pursue their asylum claim. These were the strongest claims
for political asylum- and many of the human stories we are hearing now.
I will advocate strongly for this bill in the House and Senate, but Alexandra,
Nestilia and Louiciana are the best spokespersons.
Through their experiences, we see the necessity that Congress take swift action
on the Haitian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act.
Mr. Chairman, this legislation covers an extremely small number of people in
comparison with the Central American Adjustment Act that President Clinton re-
cently signed into law.
The Guantanamo Haitians and the Haitian asylees have established families with
U.S. citizen children, opened businesses, built homes, educated themselves, and
greatly strengthened the communities in which they live.
On behalf of Alexandra Charles and the entire Haitian community, I commend
your dedicated work on this bill, and I ask you to continue the fight for fairness
and justice by continuing in your strong support of the Haitian Refugee Immigration
Fairness Act of 1997 (S. 1504) and working to ensure its passage.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Miami, FL, December 12, 1997.
Hon. BOB GRAHAM,
Hon. CONNIE MACK,
DEAR SENATORS: We are writing this letter today, not only to thank you once more
for all your help in our recent immigration adjustment act. Your support was deci-
sive and essential for this victory. But we are now worried about our Haitian broth-
ers. They have also had a long and suffering struggle, and we also feel it is time
it comes to an end.
Their situation is very similar to that of the Central Americans, they went
through a civil war, they experienced persecution back home, they came here and
the United States allowed them to stay.
We think that the solution has to be a similar one, too. That is why the Nica-
raguan community is backing the efforts being done in both the Senate and the
House of Representatives to alleviate the problem.
Once more you are joined in a just cause and you can count on our full support.
We thank you for caring.
MILTON R. GONZALEZ,
FRATERNIDAD NICARAGUENSE-NICARAGUAN FRATERNITY,
Miami, FL, December 14, 1997.
Senator SPENCER ABRAHAM,
DEAR SENATOR ABRAHAM: The Nicaraguan Fraternity, has pledged full support to
the cause of the Haitian Community in the U.S. and we will stand by the side of
our Haitian refugee brothers and sisters to obtain a legislation which will provide
for a permanent residence status for them. Our position is unwavering.
As you are aware, Haiti has a fragile economy and it is recovering from the dev-
astating effects of a civil struggle that required the U.S. to send troops to Haiti in
order to bring stability and guarantee the rights of the Haitian citizens.
Our people were sad to see that the Haitian community was left out of the provi-
sions of the Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act ("NACARA").
Our community did face a civil war, and suffered the impact of a civil struggle.
The members of the Nicaraguan exile community, which like our Haitian brothers
and sisters are hard-working and law abiding people, were also forced to leave our
homeland against our will. We believe that Haitians should have not been over-
looked in NACARA even though we, as the Haitian exile community, were direct
victims of the wars and civil strife that was the sequel of Communism in this Hemi-
We believe that, as in the case of Nicaraguans, very many meritorious cases for
political asylum in the U.S. were improperly denied to the Haitians by the U.S. Im-
migration Service, because they have taken a position to make "blanket" denials of
such applications with regard to some groups. Absent a legislation to help Haitians
out from their purgatory with the I.N.S., they will be deported from the U.S. after
decades of physical presence in the U.S. which will separate families that are born
in the U.S. from Haitian parents.
We give our most felt support for the Haitian Community and we will ask all of
our American friends to help out in giving this community a deserved solution to
a critical problem.
With faith in God we will succeed with this just cause! Thanking you for your sup-
port to our cause.
Attorney, Nicaraguan Fraternity.
Executive Director, Nicaraguan Fra-
LAW OFFICES OF MICHAEL A. BANDER, P.A.,
Miami, FL, December 12, 1997.
Senator BOB GRAHAM,
DEAR SENATOR GRAHAM: I write to express my most sincere gratitude for your ef-
forts on behalf of the Nicaraguan community. The Nicaraguan Adjustment and
Central American Relief Act (NACARA) brings tranquility and justice to tens of
thousands of Nicaraguan immigrants in the United States. Thousands of American
children born to undocumented Nicaraguan parents will truly have a Merry Christ-
mas, in large part as a result of your labor in defense of their parents' rights.
On a personal note, this has been a very rewarding experience, yet it has been
a bittersweet victory. I'm still deeply concerned by the imminent threat of deporta-
tion which thousands of Haitians in our community face as a result of the Illegal
Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996. Our victory will not
be complete unless and until, Haitians are granted relief from their immigration di-
I want to congratulate you and the other co-sponsors, for introducing legislation
addressing the Haitian immigration issue. It is a fair and noble thing to do. Person-
ally and on behalf of the Nicaraguan community, I want to express our support for
A number of Haitians in the United States are similarly situated to the Nica-
raguans and Cubans positively affected by NACARA. Like Nicaraguans and Cubans,
many of the Haitians who have reached our shores, came to this country fleeing
fierce political persecution and instability. In fact during the Bush Administration,
close to ten thousand Haitians, commonly referred to as the Bush Haitians, were
allowed into the United States after being intercepted by the Coast Guard and
taken to the Guantanamo Naval Base where they were screened by the Immigration
Service and found to have a credible fear of persecution. It would be a travesty of
justice for these Haitians to now be forced to return to the country they risked their
lives to flee from.
Like Nicaraguans, many of these Haitians who today face deportation, have been
in this country for many years and have established their lives and pursued their
dreams in this country. They attend school, own homes, are employers, employees
and clients in South Florida. They have borne and raised their children in our com-
munity. They are our neighbors and friends. The Haitian community has made
many important economic, cultural and social contributions to South Florida. Our
community would suffer great detriment from massive deportations of Haitians.
Just like Nicaraguans, Haitians were adversely affected by IIRAIRA. Prior to the
passage of IIRAIRA, some Haitians who have been in this country for over seven
years could have pursued a form of relief known as Suspension of Deportation,
which required (1) seven years of continuous presence in the United States; (2) good
moral character; and (3) extreme hardship to the applicant or the applicant's U.S.
citizen or legal permanent resident spouse, parent or child if the applicant is de-
ported. IIRAIRA eliminates Suspension of Deportation and replaces it with Can-
cellation of Removal, which requires: (1) ten years of continuous presence; (2) good
moral character; and (3) extreme and unusual hardship no longer on the applicant
him/herself, but rather only on the applicant's U.S citizen or legal permanent resi-
dent spouse, parent or child. This is a much more difficult standard to meet. Fur-
thermore, Section 309(c)(5) of IIRAIRA includes a retroactively applied transitional
rule which halts the tolling of time upon receipt of an Order To Show Cause (OSC).
Most aliens receive an OSC before being in the United States for ten years, and
thus would be prima facie ineligible and effectively barred from applying for Can-
cellation of Removal.
Section 309(c)(5) of IIRAIRA was interpreted by the Board of Immigration Ap-
peals in the precedent case Matter of N-J-B. This erroneous and retroactive inter-
pretation was codified in NACARA. Thus, the law which results in happiness and
justice to thousands of Nicaraguans and Cubans, further closes the door on a limited
number of similarly situated Haitians. This situation needs to be expediently ad-
dressed and remedied.
As I previously discussed, South Florida where a large Haitian population resides
will be seriously affected by their deportation, but the country of Haiti will also suf-
fer devastating consequences. Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemi-
sphere. The sudden influx and repatriation of thousands of Haitians will wreak
havoc on the fledgling democracy and economy of that Caribbean nation. The United
States has invested significant funds and troops in restoring democracy in Haiti. De-
porting thousands of Haitians would be a mistake of gargantuan proportions. It
would jeopardize the modest progress Haiti has made in recent years.
Domestic and Foreign policy concerns, as well as basic concepts of justice, freedom
and fairness, call for an urgent solution to the Haitian immigrant crisis. Establish-
ing equal treatment to the Haitians is a noble and necessary battle, and one we
must win, for the sake of our community, for the sake of our country and for the
sake of thousands of Haitians who came to this country to escape the horror of their
homeland and to pursue the American dream in the land of the free.
Senator ABRAHAM. Senator Graham, thank you.
Before Congressman Conyers speaks, I have been handed a little
note here that indicates we have a couple of local community lead-
ers who are here. I just want to thank them for helping us make
today's facilities available and for participating and being with us.
Commissioner Barbara Carey is here. I'm sitting in her seat, so
she's going to get priority over all of us here today. We also have
State Representative John Cosgrove, who I know I took a picture
with earlier. Representative, .it's nice to see you.
Finally, we have just been joined by the Mayor of Miami-Dade,
Alex Penelas. I know you wanted to make a comment and welcome
the group. Mayor, we appreciate your hospitality and are very
much grateful for this chance to come down today.
STATEMENT OF HON. ALEX PENELAS, MAYOR OF MIAMI-
Mayor PENELAS. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. It is certainly a
pleasure to have you and all of our congressional delegation and
other Members of Congress with us, and we want to welcome all
of you to Miami-Dade County to our beautiful chamber, and cer-
tainly to those of you from out of town, I hope you are enjoying our
spectacular weather these last few days.
I want to thank each of you for holding this very important hear-
ing on this issue. With me, I want to introduce at this time, as you
mentioned, Commissioner Barbara Carey. She will not be speaking,
but I will be speaking for her and I know other members of our
Miami-Dade County Commission who are very, very interested in
As each of you know, and certainly our local delegation does, the
diversity of Miami-Dade County ensures us strong economic ties to
global markets, a rich, culture-drawing tourism industry, and an
enhanced quality of life for everyone. In fact, this county, Mr.
Chairman, really is almost a microcosm of the world. People from
156 different countries call Miami-Dade County home.
However, when there is an imbalance, divisiveness can be crip-
pling. Your focused attention on securing equality for tens of thou-
sands of Haitians, who live and work right here in Miami-Dade
County, is welcomed. And more importantly, action in this congres-
sional session is strongly encouraged.
As is demonstrated by the proposed legislation and participation
in today's hearing, south Florida, indeed, has a very, very dedicated
congressional delegation. I understand that the legislative process
can be very challenging, and I am grateful for the accomplishments
of this session, which have including restoring supplemental secu-
rity income and other benefits to immigrants, and granting am-
nesty to Nicaraguans, Salvadorans, Guatemalans, and eastern Eu-
Let me emphasize in conclusion, because I certainly appreciate
your time and courtesies of allowing me to speak for a few mo-
ments this morning, this community supports wholeheartedly con-
gressional and executive branch efforts to secure equitable treat-
ment for Haitians. The Haitians are very much a critical part of
our community and we are grateful that the Congress has em-
I want to thank you, Mr. Chairman. I would like to put into the
record a letter signed by my colleague, Commissioner Carey, in lieu
of her statement, and I want to thank all of you for allowing us
this opportunity this morning.
[The letter of Commissioner Carey was not available at
Senator ABRAHAM. Mayor, thank you very much. We thank you
both and appreciate your hospitality. Your sentiments will be re-
flected. As I indicated earlier, our goal today is to build the record
on the impact of this legislation.
We will now turn to our friend from Michigan, who as I said ear-
lier is someone who I know cares very much about this legislation.
Congressman John Conyers.
STATEMENT OF HON. JOHN CONYERS, JR.
Representative CONYERS. Good morning, Chairman Abraham,
and to my colleagues. I am delighted to be here.
I can't help but think this is the Christmas season. We're all
coming together in such a grand spirit. We have a very definitive
statement from your mayor, who Miss Ros-Lehtinen and I observed
is a very young fellow. [Laughter.]
He also happens to be a Democrat, which made me feel a little
better. As for the weather, people have been apologizing. But where
I came from, and where you come from, this is fabulous weather.
No apologies are necessary for me.
And so it is in the spirit of the bill that we introduce that we
come together for refugee immigration fairness. I can't tell you how
much I sincerely appreciate the initiative that you have begun that
would take this out of the several hundred bills that will shortly
be introduced on the opening day of our second session. So I join
with my colleagues, hoping that we can move forward.
Even as we meet, there are very important developments taking
place. We have just now had the deferred enforcement departure
now available for the next 12 months for Haitians, which is, I
think, a very positive signal. We have just had this young gen-
tleman who was deported, John Herroa John [phonetic], has just
been released. I take these as all good signs. We are working to-
gether in a bipartisan way.
It is not only the spirit of the season, Senator Graham, but it is
also the spirit that should form immigration legislation in our
country. I am glad to see this happening. I join with all of you.
I would just add a couple other points. The first is that we want
to make sure that the deportation process is, in fact, with reference
to Haitians, suspended. There is a place not too many blocks from
here where there are proceedings going on that we want to make
sure they've caught up with the directives that are flowing from
the National Government.
Additionally, you should know that I have talked with our Direc-
tor of INS, Doris Meissner. She has agreed with me to review all
of the INS court procedures involving Haitians. That is a task so
large that I bring it to all of our doorsteps because it's going to
need both the committees that Lamar Smith chairs on Judiciary,
and that you chair in the Senate, and perhaps our individual staffs
as well, to review these cases.
What I have in mind there is trying to make sure that the court
cases and the law comport with what is the policy at the time that
some of these persons come before the INS court proceedings. So
I embark upon that with great enthusiasm.
I also want the record to reflect that the District Director of the
Miami INS, Mr. Robert Wallace, may or may not be comporting
with the INS memo of the 19th of November because, to the dis-
appointment of many of the Haitians and Haitian-Americans that
he met with, he announced on December 5 that he could and would
deport Haitians on a case-by-case basis. I don't have to tell you
what kind of feeling that left the folks with. So I think that part
of our extracurricular detail is to make-sure that we're all aware
I thank you for your time, and I am very pleased to join you at
[The prepared statement of Representative Conyers follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF REPRESENTATIVE JOHN CONYERS, JR.
Thank you Senator Abraham for sponsoring S. 1504 and holding this important
hearing. I also would like to acknowledge Representatives Diaz-Balart and Ros-
Lehtinen who are original co-sponsors of H.R. 3049, the House companion bill I have
introduced. In addition, I want to thank Senator Carol Moseley-Braun and Rep-
resentative Meek who could not be here to testify but have worked tirelessly for eq-
uitable treatment of Haitian refugees and asylum seekers. Finally, I like to acknowl-
edge the efforts of Representatives Mel Watt who is the Ranking Member of the Im-
migration Subcommittee and Representative Alcee Hastings and Senator Bob Gra-
Last month, Congress passed and President Clinton signed into law the D.C. Ap-
propriation bill1 which included the "Nicaraguan and Central American Relief Act,"
granting Nicaraguan and Cuban aliens residing in the United States permanent
residency. At the same time, certain Eastern European, Guatemalan and Salva-
doran aliens in this country were given the opportunity to apply for suspension of
deportation under the standards set forth in the Immigration and Nationality Act
prior to its amendment last Congress. Many of us, including me-were uncomfort-
able with the disparate treatment granted to these immigrant communities. How-
ever, I was profoundly disappointed that the bill did not include any relief whatso-
ever for similarly situated Haitian refugees who fled persecution in their country
and sought protection in the United States. S. 1504 and H.R. 3039, the "Haitian
Refugee Immigration Fairness Act of 1997," will resolve this inequity.
I. HISTORY OF MISTREATMENT OF HAITIAN REFUGEES
The history of the United States immigration policy toward Haitians has been
marked by insensitivity and discrimination. For ten years, including the last four
of the Duvalier dictatorship and six years of military juntas, the United States, forc-
ibly returned Haitian refugees fleeing persecution in their country, without giving
them the opportunity to apply for asylum.2 After a September 1991 coup in which
the Haitian military overthrew the democratically elected President Jean Bertrand
Aristide, the number of persons fleeing Haiti by boat for the United States rose dra-
matically.3 By November 1991, with an estimated 1,500 Haitians already dead and
military repression at full throttle, the Bush Administration announced it was re-
suming forced repatriation without granting asylum interviews.
Public outcry from human rights organizations and the United Nations High
Commissioner for Refugees forced a modest compromise, allowing Haitian refugees
to be brought to the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for INS interviews.
Under this agreement, if a Haitian refugee could show a "credible fear"4 of persecu-
tion, they were paroled5 into the United States to apply for asylum. Those who did
not meet the "credible fear" standard were returned to Haiti. Between September
1991 and May 1992, over 30,000 Haitians were interviewed and approximately one-
third were found to meet "credible fear" standard and were paroled into the United
States to seek asylum.6 In May 1992, President Bush issued the "Kennebunkport
Order," ending the asylum screening process at Guantanamo. As a result of that
Order, interdicted Haitian refugees were once again forcibly returned to Haiti with-
out an asylum screening, in direct violation of international law.
Shortly before his inauguration, President-elect Clinton announced that the Unit-
ed States would continue the Bush interdiction and return policy, citing safety con-
cerns for the large number of Haitians predicted to set sail if this policy were re-
versed.7 In May 1994, the Clinton Administration adopted a revised policy, which
granted Haitians intercepted at sea the opportunity to apply for refugee status.
In the fall of 1994, the democratically elected government was restored and the
in-country refugee program was ended. In January 1995, Guantanamo Bay was
closed and most refugees returned to Haiti voluntarily.8 However, about 100 Haitian
refugees were paroled into the United States because it was determined that they
could not safely return.
The Haitian refugees who were paroled in to the U.S. through Guantanamo by
both the Bush and Clinton Administrations are now in the U.S. legally, but their
"parolee" status is temporary and must be renewed each year by the Attorney Gen-
eral. Parolees must also "renew" their work authorizations, making it difficult for
them to obtain long-term employment.
II. S.1504/H.R. 3049, THE "HAITIAN REFUGEE IMMIGRATION FAIRNESS ACT OF 1997"
S. 1504/H.R. 3049, the "Haitian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act of 1997," is a
bi-partisan, bi-cameral effort. The House bill has already been co-sponsored by Rep-
resentatives Meek, Diaz-Balart, Ros-Lehtinen, Watt, Hastings, Brown and Waters.
2This process was the result of an arrangement, brokered in 1981, by which the government
of Jean Claude Duvalier and the Reagan Administration permitted U.S. authorities to board
Haitian vessels and to return to Haiti any passengers determined not to have a well founded
fear of persecution. Under this arbitrary arrangement, in the 10 years, from 1981 to the coup
in 1991, the United States granted asylum to exactly 8 of 24,559 Haitian refugees applying for
3 Most of the refugees were young people who were involved in the pro-democracy movement.
4The "credible fear" differs slightly from the current statutory standard, but it was function-
ally the same, a low threshold screening standard below well-founded fear.
"In the context of immigration law, parole is a temporary status granted by the Attorney Gen-
eral. Each paroled Haitian must complete the asylum process and be approved for permanent
admission. See 8 U.S.C. 1182 (aX9)(b)(5XA).
6Haitian refugees became an issue in the 1992 presidential campaign, when presidential can-
didate Bill Clinton criticized the Bush Administration policy of interdiction and direct return.
7Both the Guantanamo screening process and the direct return policy were challenged in fed-
eral court. This litigation culminated in a June 21, 1993, decision by the Supreme Court, in Sale
v. Haitians Centers Council, 509 U.S. 155 (1993), finding that neither the nonrefoulment obliga-
tion of Article 33 of the United Nation Convention Relating to the Status of Refugee nor the
withholding provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act applied on the high seas.
8 Most of those who did not return voluntarily were sent back involuntarily, after having been
screened under a standard designed to identify persons who could not yet return in safety. The
remainder of Haitian refugees in safe haven, approximately 100 persons, were later paroled into
This legislation will permit Haitian nationals who filed for asylum before December
31, 1995, or were paroled into the United States prior to December 31, 1995, to ad-
just their status to lawfully admitted permanent residents. Haitian nationals who
meet this criteria must file for this adjustment by April 1, 2000.
H.R. 3049 also requires the Attorney General to issue regulations staying deporta-
tion of Haitians who are applying for a status adjustment under the legislation. The
Attorney General may also in her discretion authorize employment during the pend-
ency of their adjustment of status application.
The Clinton Administration strongly supports legislative efforts to provide relief
for Haitian refugees. On November 14, 1997, at the signing of the Nicaraguan and
Central American Relief Act, he stated, "[Haitians] deserve the same treatment that
this legislation makes possible for other groups [and] we will seek passage of this
III. NEED FOR LEGISLATION
It is imperative that Congress move quickly on S. 1504/H.R. 3049. Although the
Clinton Administration has agreed to hold deportations of Haitians in abeyance
temporarily, this administrative relief cannot last forever. It is up to us in Congress
to enact legislation providing these individuals with the legislative certainty they
need and deserve.
There are a number of public policy reasons supporting legislative action. First
and foremost, as a matter of racial and political fairness, it is essential that we have
a policy that does not arbitrarily distinguish between America's immigrant commu-
nities. Like the immigrant groups assisted in the D.C. Appropriation bill, Haitians
were fleeing a cruel and dangerous dictatorship yet received no relief. The situation
in Haiti continues to be unstable. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refu-
gees, Amnesty International and other international human rights organization
have concluded that the Government of Haiti is unable to meet the basic obligations
of protecting its citizens and asylum seekers could still face persecution upon return.
Second as a matter of humanity, the Haitians we have permitted to enter this
country have become an integral and vital part of our communities. They are now
our neighbors, co-workers, and in many cases have become part of our families. To
uproot these courageous individuals who risked their very lives to flee a military
dictatorship would be a gross inequity and would distort this country's historic com-
mitment to refugees. The majority of these Haitians have settled in Miami, New
York, and Boston, and these communities would be particularly harmed by the sud-
den removal of Haitian residents and taxpayers.
Finally, as a matter of international comity, we cannot risk the chaos that would
result by unilaterally deporting thousands of persons back to Haiti. I have been to
Haiti on many occasions, and I can testify firsthand that the economic and political
situation in that nation is incredibly precarious. Our country has risked the lives
of our young soldiers and expended millions of taxpayer dollars and our inter-
national prestige in a worthwhile effort to restore a stable democracy to Haiti. We
risk all of this by suddenly allowing the reintroduction of these individuals to that
fragile nation. Not only would they create massive pressures on the job market and
the government's relief obligations, but the Haitians would no longer be able to send
badly needed funds to their families from their work in the United States. (And of
course, if a military regime was ever returned to power in Haiti, the very lives of
these individuals could again be placed at risk.) In sum, repatriation would not
serve the domestic policy of Haiti or the foreign policy of the United States.
As Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee, I pledge to do everything
within my power to work with Chairman Hyde and Immigration Subcommittee
Chairman Lamar Smith to seek expedited consideration of this essential legislation.
I look forward to working with you Senator Abraham, and the other Members testi-
fying today to bring equity and compassion to our immigration laws and to the Hai-
tians who are legally residing in this country.
Senator ABRAHAM. Thank you, John. We appreciate your coming
As I said, we appreciate how much priority you have placed on
this legislation, which is important. Obviously, we need to have the
House support, and also because, again, the communities in our
State may not be as directly affected, so having leadership from
places where it isn't simply a local issue I think helps us to build
a case more broadly.
Representative CONYERS. Mr. Chairman, could I just point out
that I talked to Chairman Henry Hyde this morning, who is also
reviewing this legislation and will be talking with me about it be-
fore our session starts.
Senator ABRAHAM. Great. We look forward to working with our
House colleagues on this. Obviously, this is legislation that's mov-
ing in both chambers. Today we're theoretically, having a hearing
in regard to Senator Graham's bill, but we are obviously interested
in the House's perspectives, too.
We will now hear from Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen. I met your
father here today, so now I feel like I know the whole family and
we appreciate his coming today as well. We welcome you, sir.
STATEMENT OF HON. ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN
Representative ROS-LEHTINEN. Thank you so much, Spencer, for
holding this hearing in our wonderful city.
As Americans, we believe that the United States is the world's
greatest democracy. Indeed, it is. It's the birthplace of human
rights, a country so wonderful in its liberty and its sovereignty that
people from all other nations want to come and live here.
In this great country, we uphold human rights. We respect
human rights, regardless of an individual's choice of religion, politi-
cal ideology, ethnicity, race or gender. We defend the rights of free-
dom of thought and expression, due process, and the just protection
of the law. We vehemently condemn torture, beatings, rape, arbi-
trary imprisonment, and murder.
Yet 600 miles southeast of the coast of Florida, these brutal prac-
tices, which we denounce as Americans abiding in a free country,
were once a standard part of everyday life for the native Haitian.
The inhabitants of this island were inhumanely abused, tormented,
persecuted and, indeed, even murdered. Historically, Haiti has en-
dured authoritarian regimes and political turmoil, characterized by
Even today troubles continue. According to a country report on
Haiti by our own State Department,
Cases in which the national police mistreated detainees, sometimes severely, in-
creased dramatically in 1996. The UN/OAS International Civilian Mission docu-
mented 86 instances of mistreatment in the first 5 months of the year alone, and
such violations of human rights continued throughout the year.
Previously, as the situation in Haiti deteriorated to an intoler-
able extent, Haitians desperately fled their homeland in search of
refuge and safety. In an effort to improve the situation in Haiti, we
intervened with the rebuilding of institutions and infrastructure,
the promotion of the respect for human rights, and the fostering of
Haiti's social and economic development.
In the midst of this turmoil, Haitian immigrants made Miami
and other U.S. cities their home. They became our neighbors,
raised their families, worked among us, paid their taxes, attended
our schools. They aspired to live the American dream, much like
each of our ancestors did when they first arrived to the new world.
Unfortunately, these Haitians, who have established commu-
nities, have built their businesses, and have been a vibrant and
positive part of Miami's development, today live in fear of being de-
ported. They fear being removed from their new home in America
and of being separated from their American family members and
I thank my dear colleague from south Florida, the Honorable
Carrie Meek, for bringing a glimpse of light into the lives of these
many Haitian refugees. She has introduced House bill 3033, which
will adjust the immigration status of certain Haitian nationals who
were provided refuge in the United States. I have cosponsored her
bill in hopes that Congress will realize the need for Haitians to be
Prior to H.R. 3033, Congresswoman Meek also introduced an-
other bill, H.R. 2442, the Fairness for Immigrants Facing Persecu-
tion in Their Native Country Act of 1997. I also joined her in this
effort, which would have amended the Immigration and Nationality
Act to authorize the Attorney General to cancel the removal and
adjust the status of certain Haitian and Central American aliens.
I also thank my colleague, Congressman John Conyers, whose
bill, H.R. 3049, I have also cosponsored. Congressman Conyers has
been a leader in the cause for Haitian equity for many years, and
Congress always looks to him for guidance on setting immigration
policy that is fair to all. His bill, entitled The Haitian Refugee Im-
migration Fairness Act of 1997, will allow Guantanamo Bay Hai-
tian parolees to become legal permanent residents and permit Hai-
tian asylees who were not otherwise covered by this act to seek eq-
For the United States-Haitian exile community who fled because
their lives were in danger, we say "Chay La Tro Lou". This Creole
expression simply means, "The weight is too heavy."
We join our congressional colleagues in our efforts to ease the
burden of this weight of the refugee Haitian community by helping
to create a law that will restore this immigration inequity that has
been made against them.
In this upcoming session of Congress, my colleagues and I will
renew our efforts to bring justice and permanent residence to the
many refugees whose lives were once endangered in Haiti and who
have since found safety and become part of our wondrous demo-
On a closing note, Senator Abraham, I want to thank you for
your leadership on this issue. You, along with Senators Graham
and Mack, have been the voice of reason in the Senate in establish-
ing immigration policy. You have written countless articles in na-
tional and international publications, reminding our colleagues
and, indeed, all the residents of our country, that immigrants
helped build our great Nation. They create jobs, they pay taxes,
they work hard. You give speeches everywhere you go, and I have
heard you many times, in favor of a more compassioned yet rea-
soned approach to immigration. We thank you for your leadership
and your support, and we thank you for holding this hearing.
Thank you, Senator.
Senator ABRAHAM. Thank you.
We will now turn to Congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart, who I
have repeatedly told people who have inquired, he and I, actually,
in addition to our mutual interest in the issues before us today,
have a secret pact. We are planning to actually run on the Repub-
lican ticket for President and Vice President in the year 2000. It
will be the "Abraham Lincoln" ticket. [Laughter.]
It worked once. Why not try it again.
STATEMENT OF HON. LINCOLN DIAZ-BALART
Representative DIAZ-BALART. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I ac-
Mr. Chairman, with your consent, I would submit my written re-
marks for the record.
Senator ABRAHAM. Without objection.
Representative DIAZ-BALART. I will abbreviate them at this point.
I would like to simply join my colleagues who have spoken, as
well as the mayor, in thanking you for your leadership on this
issue, and the extraordinary way in which you have already dem-
onstrated that you are seeking to change for the better our immi-
gration laws and protect the great traditions of this Nation. De-
spite the fact you've been chairman for a short period of time, you
have already made a tremendous mark and we thank you for your
Our south Florida community, as my colleagues have stated, and
the mayor, has been enriched, Mr. Chairman, to an extraordinary
degree by the Haitian immigration that has reached our shores.
The Haitian community has made significant contributions to our
community, and Haitians in our community have become an inte-
gral part of south Florida. I am confident that, as you listen to the
subsequent panel, this fact will become even more evident.
I could dedicate these minutes in their entirety to the accom-
plishments and contributions of the Haitians in the United States.
However, in fairness to elemental justice, which I think is the core
of the issue we are discussing today, I am compelled to share what
I consider to be some of the arguments that I believe merit seeking
legislative relief for Haitian refugees in the United States.
It has been estimated, Mr. Chairman, by the Immigration Serv-
ice that there are approximately 11,000 Haitians that came into
the United States through the Guantanamo Naval Base in 1991
through 1993. These refugees were paroled into the United States
after having demonstrated to have a credible asylum claim. Only
Va of those interviewed were admitted.
After having been admitted, these refugees filed asylum peti-
tions, oftentimes during lengthy processing times, for Immigration
to evaluate their claims. Prior to the arrival of the Haitian refugees
from Guantanamo, several thousand Haitians, also due to the polit-
ical instability that my colleague, Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen,
referred to, sought refuge in the United States and submitted their
claims for asylum. It is estimated that approximately 4,000 of these
asylum claims are still pending.
Common sense, as well as justice, dictates that these two groups
of Haitians should certainly not have been penalized and should be
entitled to relief.
I am pleased, as was referred to by our distinguished colleague,
Congressman Conyers, that the White House, in fulfillment of the
agreement that was reached with the Congress at the time of the
legislation that you were so tremendously helpful for, that we were
able to pass in the last session, that the White House has made
an announcement with regard to suspension of deportation of Hai-
tians, while we consider in Congress our legislative relief for the
Haitian community. The Administration committed, as you know,
that Haitians will not be deported while we pursue this legislation.
A bipartisan coalition has been formed in the House and Senate,
with which I am proud to work, and certainly within which I would
consider myself to be, to achieve an equitable result for the Haitian
community in the United States as soon as possible. These steps
have made possible, I am convinced, Mr. Chairman, a better under-
standing, along with hearings such as this, of the plight of the Hai-
tian refugees in the United States, and that understanding will
continue to grow in Congress.
I believe we have forceful momentum at this time, due in great
part to the work of Senator Graham and Senator Mack, as well as
certainly yourself in your key role, and, of course, of Representa-
tives Carrie Meek and John Conyers in the House, both of whom,
as Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen has stated, filed very important
bills that I have proudly cosponsored.
In conclusion, Mr. Chairman, I believe that the Haitian commu-
nity possesses very strong arguments that completely justify and
warrant our efforts to seek legislative relief. I certainly look for-
ward to continuing to work with you, as well as the leaders here
today, and Congresswoman Meek, who is present through her staff,
to reach the goal that we all share, and that is, legislative action
that will obtain justice for the Haitian refugees in the United
Thank you very much.
[The prepared statement of Representative Diaz-Balart follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF REPRESENTATIVE LINCOLN DIAZ-BALART
I'd like to thank Chairman Abraham and Senator Graham for organizing this
hearing and welcome our distinguished guests to South Florida.
Mr. Chairman, our South Florida community, as you know, is enriched by its eth-
nic and cultural diversity. It is without a doubt a source of strength and pride. In
recent history members of the Haitian community have made significant contribu-
tions to our community and have become an integral part of South Florida. I am
confident that this fact will become as evident to the Committee by the conclusion
of this hearing as it is to those of us who are fortunate to live and represent this
I could dedicate my entire testimony to enumerate the accomplishments and con-
tributions of Haitians in the United States, however, in fairness to elemental jus-
tice, which is at the core of this issue, I am compelled to share with you this morn-
ing some of the strong arguments that merit seeking legislative relief for Haitian
refugees in the United States.
It has been estimated by the INS that there are approximately 11,000 Haitians
that came into the U.S. through the Guantanamo Naval Base in 1991-1993. These
refugees were paroled into the U.S. after having demonstrated to an INS officer at
the naval base to have a credible asylum claim. Only a third of those interviewed
were admitted. After having been admitted these refugees filed asylum petitions,
often times enduring a lengthy processing time for INS to evaluate their claims.
Prior to the arrival of the Haitian refugees from Guantanamo, several thousand
Haitians, due to the political instability in Haiti, sought refuge in the United States
and submitted their claims for asylum. It is estimated that approximately 4,000 of
these asylum claims are still pending. Common sense and justice dictate that these
two groups of Haitian refugees should not have been penalized and should be enti-
tled to relief.
Important strides were made during the first half of the 105th Congress to draw
attention to this issue in the hopes of obtaining legislation. On October 30, Chair-
man Lamar Smith proposed to Representative Carrie Meek that those Haitian refu-
gees who had entered before January 1, 1991 and applied for asylum would be in-
cluded in the legislation that was amended onto D.C. Appropriations. This would
have afforded the same relief to Haitians as was provided in that legislation to refu-
gees from Guatemala, El Salvador, and the former Warsaw Pact countries. I believe
that the offer was made in good faith by Chairman Smith and helped propel a great-
er awareness for administrative and legislative relief for Haitian refugees.
Due to the decisive leadership of Senators Graham and Mack, in coordination
with Senator Moseley-Braun, the White House and the Department of Justice
agreed to provide administrative relief to the Haitian community by suspending de-
portations of Haitians while Congress considers freestanding legislative relief. The
Administration committed that Haitians will not be deported while Congress pur-
sues Haitian refugee legislation.
A bipartisan coalition was formed in the House and Senate, with which I proudly
work, to achieve an equitable result for the Haitian community in the United States
as soon as possible.
These steps have made possible a better understanding of the plight of Haitian
refugees in the U.S. Congress. We now have forceful momentum, due in great part
to Representative Carrie Meek and Representative John Conyers, both of whom
have filed bills in the House that I have co-sponsored.
In conclusion, Mr. Chairman, I believe that the Haitian community possesses ar-
guments that completely justify and warrant our efforts to seek legislative relief. I
look forward to working with your unwavering leadership and that of Congress-
woman Meek, to reach that end.
Senator ABRAHAM. Thank you, Congressman.
As I mentioned earlier, due to a scheduling conflict, Congress-
woman Meek could not be here today. But her chief of staff, Peggy
Demon, is here and will enter into the record a statement from the
Congresswoman, with a brief opening comment.
STATEMENT OF PEGGY DEMON ON BEHALF OF HON.
Ms. DEMON. Thank you, Mr. Chair, for permitting me to welcome
you on behalf of Congresswoman Meek. The Congresswoman re-
grets very much that she is not able to be here with us today at
this very, very important meeting, but at the request of President
Clinton, she is a part of the delegation that is traveling to a num-
ber of African countries and could not be here.
She requests, of course, that her written statement become a
part of the record.
Senator ABRAHAM. It will be.
Ms. DEMON. And I will enter that.
She also wants to thank you, Mr. Chairman, for bringing this
subcommittee to Miami today, and for your courageous leadership
in showing that this country stands for policies that respect basic
fairness and decency for the American people.
The Congresswoman wants everybody here to know the essence
of her bill. She wants you to know how it fits in with other pro-
posed legislation and how it compares to the new law recently
passed for the Cubans and Nicaraguans.
Both the Meek bill and the Graham bill provide "green cards" to
those who filed for asylum before the end of 1995. Both bills pro-
vide green cards to Haitians who were paroled into this country
prior to the end of 1995. These are the "boat people" who were
taken to Guantanamo, Cuba.
The Graham bill stops here, Mr. Chair. The Meek bill goes on to
provide green cards to all Haitians who were present in the United
States on December 31, 1995. This is the same standard that was
set by Congress when it decided to give green cards to the Cubans
and the Nicaraguans who were in the United States in December
of 1995, no different, with complete equality and provisions.
Mr. Chairman, today the entire Miami-Dade community cries
out to you and the Congress for fairness under the law for Hai-
tians. I have for the record a petition signed by more than 12,000
people, which I will enter into the record also. These signatures
were collected in just a few days, in mid-October, when the press
reported that Congress was poised to change immigration laws to
help immigrants from Nicaragua, Guatemala, and El Salvador.
I have also for the record letters from more than 45 different
agencies in this city, and community groups, a cross-section, who
are very much concerned about this issue and concerned for fair-
ness for the Haitians.
Mr. Chairman, we are hopeful that you, along with Senator Gra-
ham, Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen, Congresman Diaz-Balart, Con-
gressman Conyers, and the other members of the Florida delega-
tion, will work very, very hard to finish the job that has now
Thank you so much.
[The prepared statement of Representative Meek follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF REPRESENTATIVE CARRIE P. MEEK
Mr. Chairman, thank you very much for coming to Miami to hold this hearing
on the need for fair treatment for Haitian immigrants.
In the midst of anti-immigrant extremism by some in our country and in the Con-
gress, you have been a voice for reason and moderation. You have never hesitated
to speak out in recognition of the important contributions of immigration in the de-
velopment of our culture and the growth of our economy. You have demonstrated
a keen understanding of and appreciation for the aspirations and hopes of immi-
grant communities and their commitment to our country.
Also, Mr. Chairman, I want to thank you for the characteristically strong stand
you have taken in support of fair treatment for Haitian immigrants. When Senator
Graham introduced his bill, S. 1504, to help Haitians, you were an original cospon-
And support is strong in the House. My House bill, H.R. 3033, the Haitian Refu-
gee Immigration Fairness Act of 1997, also has bipartisan support. Almost 60 Mem-
bers of Congress-including Florida Representatives Hastings, Diaz-Balart, Ros-
Lehtinen, Brown, and Boyd-are cosponsors of my bill.
Let me briefly set the historical context of Haitian immigration to this country.
It is similar in many respects to the experiences of immigrants who have come to
this country from Central and South America and Central and Eastern Europe.
Haiti has suffered from repressive governments throughout much of its history.
From 1957 through 1986, Francois Duvalier and his son Jean-Claude Duvalier gov-
erned Haiti in dictatorships known for using a private militia-the Tontons
Macoutes-to terrorize dissenters. From 1986 to 1990, Haiti had five abrupt changes
in government, including the mas .acre of voters on election day in 1988. On Decem-
ber 16, 1990 Father Jean-Bertrand Aristide was elected President, but a military
coup ousted him on October 1,1991. With United States assistance, he returned to
Haiti in October 1994.
Throughout this period of political murders, repression, and terrorism, many Hai-
tians who feared for their lives tried to flee to this country. They were often met
by official government discrimination.
In a series of cases beginning in 1977, Federal judges have repeatedly found that
the Immigration and Naturalization Service illegally discriminated against Haitian
immigrants. Attached to my testimony is a letter from a prominent Miami attorney,
Ira Kurzban, summarizing case after case of these Federal court decisions.
Despite this official policy of discrimination, many Haitians have reached this
country and are now living here in a legal "limbo" while the INS decides their fate.
They have used this time well and established productive lives; they contribute
greatly to our community and to our country. In Miami, Haitians live in the same
neighborhoods as immigrants from Cuba, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and El Salvador.
They work, worship, and raise their children side by side. Except for national origin,
they are the same. Yet Haitians are treated differently. Once again, they are dis-
criminated against. But this time, Congress made the discrimination legal.
No fair-minded person can justify the law Congress passed in November that
gives "green cards" to Cubans and Nicaraguans and at the same time makes it easi-
er to deport Haitians. Now we must work together to correct this injustice when
Congress returns next year.
Let me comment briefly on the difference between Senator Graham's bill (S. 1504)
and my bill (H.R. 3033). Both his bill and my bill give "green cards" to Haitians
who have filed for asylum before the end of 1995. INS data indicate that since the
beginning of fiscal year 1992 about 32,000 Haitians have filed for asylum. By the
end of fiscal year 1996 the INS had acted on about 14,000 of these applications, and
the remaining 18,000 applications are still pending. Of the 14,000 acted on by the
INS, about 3,400-or about one quarter-have been granted asylum.
Both Senator Graham's bill and my bill also give "green cards" to Haitians who
were paroled into this country prior to the end of 1995. INS data indicate that this
is about 14,000 people-10,000 by President Bush and 4,000 by President Clinton.
These are the "boat people" who were interdicted, taken to Guantanamo, Cuba, and
screened there by the INS. About one-third were paroled into this country because
the INS concluded that they had a valid asylum claim. Some of these parolees have
formally filed for asylum, but many have not because, like many Americans, they
cannot afford attorneys.
But my bill, unlike Senator Graham's, also gives "green cards" to Haitians who
were present in the United States on December 31, 1995. My bill uses the same
standard set by Congress last month when it decided to give "green cards" to all
Cubans and Nicaraguans who were in the country in December 1995. Congress did
not limit "green cards" to those Cubans and Nicaraguans who had either filed for
asylum or been paroled into this country, and there is no reason for Congress to
treat Haitians differently than it has treated Nicaraguans and Cubans.
Clearly, there is no danger of "opening the floodgates of immigration" in the case
of the Haitians. When Congress acted last month, no one knew how many Nica-
raguans and Cubans would get "green cards." However, a November 13, 1997 Miami
Herald story estimated that the new law covers 150,000 Nicaraguans and 5,000 Cu-
bans. This is a far larger number than the likely number of Haitians who would
be helped by my bill.
In conclusion, Mr. Chairman, I thank you again for holding this hearing and look
forward to working with you, Senator Graham, and other Members of Congress in
enacting legislation to bring justice to Haitians.
LAW OFFICES OF KURZBAN,
KURZBAN, WEINGER, AND TETZELI, P.A.,
Miami, FL, November 17, 1997.
Hon. CARRIE MEEK,
U.S. House of Representatives,
DEAR REPRESENTATIVE MEEK: As someone who has spent the last twenty years
in litigation against the Immigration and Naturalization Service because of their
discriminatory treatment of Haitian Refugees, I was surprised to read Congressman
Smith's statement in his "Dear Colleague' letter of November 13, 1997 that: "Clear-
ly, the United States does not discriminate against Haitians in its immigration pol-
icy *. In fact, they have been treated better than individuals from most other
Even the most cursory review of the decisions of numerous federal judges indi-
cates that no other group of refugees has been treated to the kind of blatant dis-
crimination, ignored by Congressman Smith, but suffered by Haitians refugees dur-
ing the past two decades.
1. Haitians have been unlawfully denied their statutory and treaty rights to a
hearing before an immigration judge in exclusion proceedings on their claims for po-
litical asylum. Sannon v. United States, 427 F. Supp. 1270 (S.D. Fla. 1977) vacated
and remanded on other grounds, 566 F.2d 104 (5th Cir. 1978).
2. They have been unlawfully denied their right to notice of the procedures that
the government intended to use against them in exclusion proceedings. Sannon v.
United States, 460 F. Supp. 458 (S.D. Fla. 1978).
3. They have been unlawfully denied the right to work during the pendency of
their asylum claims. National Council of Churches v. Egan, No. 79-2959-Civ-WMH
(S.D. Fla. 1979).
4. They have been unlawfully denied access to information to support their asy-
lum claims. National Council of Churches v. Immigration and Naturalization Serv-
ice, No. 78-5163-Civ-JLK (S.D.Fla. 1979).
5. They have been unlawfully denied the very right to be heard on their asylum
claims, and have been subjected to a special "Haitian Program" designed to expedite
their deportation from the United States. Haitian Refugee Center v. Civiletti, 503
F.Supp. 442 (S.D. Fla. 1980) affd as modified sub nom. Haitian Refugee Center v.
Smith, 676 F.2d 1023 (5th Cir. Unit B 1982).
6. They have been unlawfully denied their right to counsel and to fair process in
their exclusion hearings by being shipped like cattle, to remote areas of America,
where they were subjected to a "human shell game." Louis v. Meissner, 530 F. Supp.
924, 926 (S.D. Fla. 1981).
7. They have been singled out and discriminated against in their incarceration
where they remained for over one year while being subjected to physical abuse and
substandard medical care that resulted in the suicide of a named plaintiff. A panel
opinion described that discrimination as "as stark as that in Gomillion or Yick
Wo." Jean v. Nelson, 711 F.2d 1455, 1489 (11th Cir. 1983). Although the Court of
Appeals en banc later vacated this decision on the grounds that Haitians had no
constitutional rights, they never disturbed the factual findings of the panel opinion.
Moreover, even the Supreme Court recognized that no matter how broad the Attor-
ney General's authority was in matter concerning incarceration of persons seeking
admission, that authority must be carried out "without regard to race or national
origin." Jean v. Nelson, 472 U.S. 846 (1985).
8. They were denied the right to a "meaningful opportunity to be heard" even in
the amnesty program. Haitian Refugee Center v. Nelson, 694 F.Supp. 864, 879 (S.D.
Fla. 1988) affirmed sub. nom. McNary v. Haitian Refugee Center, Inc., 498 U.S. 479
Congressman Smith's reference to the Guantanamo Haitians as receiving benefits
that "no other nationality group has received" also is in error. The Guantanamo
Haitians were only brought into the United States after protracted and embarrass-
ing litigation that focused attention on the callousness of our country turning back
persons who were fleeing a military dictatorship that our own government called "a
pariah in the Western Hemisphere." Thus, it was not a beneficent gesture, but a
response to litigation that demonstrated that Haitians, once again, were not being
given a fair or meaningful hearing on their claims for political asylum. Haitian Ref-
ugee Center, Inc. v. Baker, 789 F. Supp. 1552 (S.D.Fla. 1991) vacated on jurisdic-
tional grounds, 949 F.2d 1109 (11th Cir. 1992). Moreover, many other nationals,
dating as far back as 1948 were paroled into the United States in the same manner
as the Haitians including refugees from World War II, Hungarian freedom fighters,
Cubans, Indochinese refugees and many others. The only difference between the
Guantanamo Haitians and these other groups was that all other groups were ulti-
mately given permanent residency in the United States while the Haitians have
been left in limbo.
I would appreciate your efforts to call to the attention of your colleagues the er-
rors contained in Mr. Smith's letter.
IRA J. KURZBAN, ESQ.
Senator ABRAHAM. Thank you very much. We will enter all of
that into the record.
Also, as I indicated, today's hearing conflicted with previous com-
mitments that Senator Mack had made, but he, too, has submitted
a statement, which we will include in the record, in support of the
legislation that we're hearing about today.
[The prepared statement of Senator Mack follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF HON. CONNIE MACK, A U.S. SENATOR FROM THE STATE OF
Mr. Chairman, thank you for this opportunity to express my support for S. 1504,
the Haitian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act of 1997, of which I am a co-sponsor.
I regret that I am unable to be at the hearing today due to prior plans. I would
also like to thank the Chairman for the expeditious time frame in which he sched-
uled a hearing for this important legislation. I believe it demonstrates a real com-
mitment on his part to assist those immigrants we were unable to help with the
Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act.
This has been a very successful year for South Florida's immigrant communities.
Passage of the Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act in Novem-
ber assured that hundreds of thousands of Central Americans would receive fair
treatment as they worked their way through the immigration process-whether by
clarifying that they would be considered for suspension of deportation under the
rules in place when they applied or being provided the opportunity to adjust to legal
permanent resident status. We have much to be grateful for today.
However, our work in the Senate is far from over. During consideration of the leg-
islation which helps refugees from Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala, there
was an unsuccessful effort to include relief for Haitian immigrants. After many at-
tempts at inclusion, it became evident that it would not be possible to pass a bill
at that time which included relief for Haitians as well. We made the decision to help
those that we could help and fight another day for the immigrants from Haiti.
That day has come. I know that I, along with Senators Graham, Abraham, Ken-
nedy, and Moseley-Braun, Congresswoman Meek and others, are deeply concerned
about the plight of the Haitian community in America. It is important that those
who have come to the United States fleeing persecution and civil strife be given the
opportunity, as early as possible, to regularize their immigration status and be free
from the fear which comes with uncertainty.
The group of people who will be helped by S. 1504 is very deserving of our assist-
ance. Most of them are parolees who were brought into the country from Guanta-
namo Bay, Cuba after being pre-screened for the legitimacy of their asylum claims.
They have since put down deep roots in communities across South Florida and the
rest of the country and have contributed to our country in countless and valuable
I want to stress my belief in the importance of treating fairly all people who come
to this country in search of freedom. We should not differentiate across country
lines. In the early 1990's, I opposed the Administration's policy of interdicting Hai-
tians at sea. Those who value freedom and risk their lives to experience it should
be welcomed to our country and given the opportunity to be heard. This legislation
is a gesture of welcome which is long overdue. I urge the Committee and the full
Senate to provide for its swift passage. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Senator ABRAHAM. At this point I want to thank our panel. I
know that a number of you have other places you need to be today,
so we will excuse you. Anyone who wants to remain as an observer,
please, if you would like to come up here, that's fine. Thank you
all for coming.
We will now call on our second panel, if you all would please
come forward and take your seats up here. If everybody would take
their seats, we can begin.
Our second panel today is really an important part of what we're
doing here today, which is to try to provide both some personal ex-
periences to this issue as well as some background in terms of its
This panel will consist of six people. I'm going to put the clock
on because we really do need to ask everybody to adhere to a 5-
minute timeframe. I want to introduce each of the panelists, and
we're going to start over here to my right. After I have done the
introductions, we will begin back over there.
Our first witness is Nestilia Robergeau. We welcome her. She is
a Haitian refugee who is currently living in Atlanta. We will then
hear from Louiciana Miclisse, who also is a refugee from Haiti, who
is living with her aunt here in the Miami area.
We will then hear from Bishop Thomas Wenski, who is the Aux-
iliary Bishop of the Miami Archdiocese, who is testifying on behalf
of Most Reverend John Favalora.
Our next witness will be Grover Joseph Rees, who is the former
General Counsel of the Immigration and Naturalization Service
during the Bush administration, who will be providing us with
some perspective as to what took place during the time in which
a number of the refugees came to the United States.
We will then hear from Miraan Sa, who is representing Amnesty
International today, and finally, we will hear from Cheryl Little,
who is the executive director of the Florida Immigrant Advocacy
Center in Miami.
I thank you all for being here. I know a number of people on this
panel are testifying before a Senate hearing for the first time, or
maybe publicly speaking for the first time, but I want to make sure
everybody in the audience understands that we're here to hear
these people and they're going to do their best. Nobody should feel
uncomfortable. Nestilia, we will begin with you.
PANEL CONSISTING OF NESTILIA ROBERGEAU, HAITIAN REF-
UGEE, ATLANTA, GA; LOUICIANA MICLISSE, HAITIAN REFU-
GEE, HOMESTEAD, FL; BISHOP THOMAS G. WENSKI, AUXIL-
IARY BISHOP OF THE ARCHDIOCESE OF MIAMI, ON BEHALF
OF MOST REVEREND JOHN C. FAVALORA, ARCHBISHOP OF
MIAMI AND MEMBER OF THE NATIONAL CONFERENCE OF
CATHOLIC BISHOPS COMMITTEE ON MIGRATION; GROVER
JOSEPH REES, FORMER INS GENERAL COUNSEL; MIRAAN
SA, AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL, MIAMI, FL; AND CHERYL LIT-
TLE, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, FLORIDA IMMIGRANT ADVO-
CACY CENTER, MIAMI, FL
STATEMENT OF NESTILIA ROBERGEAU
Ms. ROBERGEAU. Good morning, Mr. Chairman, members of the
committee, ladies and gentlemen. My name is Nestilia Robergeau.
Thank you, Senator Abraham and the Senate Immigration Com-
mittee very much for giving me this opportunity to speak to you
on my behalf and on the behalf of the Haitian community. Thank
you so much for caring about us, and taking the time to learn
about me, my problems, and the problems of people in situations
like mine. The Haitian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act that you
are currently considering would help me and my little brother very
much, as well as many other people like us.
I am 25 years old and I was born in Haiti. I entered the United
States on April 8, 1992 from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. I was reset-
tled by Church World Service. I had a good life in Haiti. I attended
school in Port-au-Prince and I was a strong supporter of President
Jean Bertrand Aristide. My older brother, Andrigue, was also a big
Aristide supporter. He and I came up with the idea of forming a
youth group after Aristide was elected. We wanted to show our
support for him and help contribute to our country.
The group was called the Youth Organization of Boucan. Grand
Boucan is my hometown in southwestern Haiti. I was the secretary
of our group and my older brother was the president. The group
helped children from Grand Boucan who could not afford to go to
school and who did not have enough food to eat. The youth group
collected money to buy food, school supplies, shoes, clothes, and
help pay school tuition for these kids.
Unfortunately, even this kind of work can get you into trouble
in Haiti. The military really hated Aristide and the people who
supported him. After the coup in late September 1991, things got
really bad. I was very afraid. Our group could no longer meet. The
military would chase people in the streets, attack them, beat them,
rape them, arrest them and kill them. They came after people like
me and communities like ours who had supported President
One night, men started yelling to be let into our house. A few
moments later, I heard a noise that sounded like they had smashed
in the door. The next thing I knew, there were several soldiers in
my room. They threatened to kill me. They assaulted me and raped
me. I was terrified. I was bleeding.
Afterwards, I was so afraid that I wanted to leave Port-au-
Prince immediately, but it was impossible. When I was finally able
to leave for Grand Boucan, my sister, Jocelyn, was left behind.
That was the last time I saw my sister or my mother. I have not
had any contact with them ever since and I fear that something
terrible has happened to them.
Even when I arrived in Grand Boucan, I was not safe. Shortly
thereafter, my brother, Andrigue, was killed by the Ton Ton
Macoutes, who were working with the military. I was absolutely
terrified that I would also be killed. Following his murder, I went
into hiding in the woods where I stayed about a month until I
could escape on a small boat.
I was so grateful and happy when the U.S. ship saved us from
our little boat. It was like a miracle when the ship came. They
brought us to the camp at Guantanamo Bay. It was not easy for
us there, but we could feel safe because we did not have to worry
about people coming to rape us, beat us, or kill us. I didn't have
to be scared any more.
After several months, I was permitted to come to the United
States. I was so happy that I was getting a chance to go to a place
where I could work and study without worrying about being at-
tacked or killed any more.
Since coming here, my application for asylum has been filed, but
I am still waiting to be called by Immigration for my asylum re-
view. Meanwhile, I was able to continue my education. I graduated
from Homestead Senior High School in 1993 and later attended a
secretarial training program from April 1994 until August 1996,
where I received numerous honors. I still have hope that I will be
able to attend college in the future. I plan on studying to become
a registered nurse so I can help people.
Currently, I live in Atlanta, GA and work as a cashier at Harris
Teeter, which is a supermarket, and at Wendy's. Most days, I work
from 7 o'clock in the morning until 10 o'clock in the evening. I am
a member of Bethel Baptist Church, where I attend services as
often as I can, at least once and sometimes twice a week. I have
my own apartment and I support myself and my little brother,
Michelet Robergeau. He also came through Guantanamo Bay. He
attends Wheeler High School, where he is a junior. Michelet is a
Mormon and attends prayer meetings and services almost daily.
Ever since I have been here I have lived in fear of being sent
back to Haiti. Nothing has been settled in my life. I am afraid to
return to the place where the men attacked me and the men who
killed my older brother still live and can still hurt me and my little
The law that you are considering today would help us im-
mensely. The Haitians who would be helped by this law have all
fled terrible tragedies, but now they go to work and pay taxes like
everybody else. We deserve a chance to have a secure future. We
have hoped for some permanent solution to our problems for a long
Please protect me and my little brother. Please don't force us or
any other Haitians to go back to Haiti. I would be forever grateful
if you gave us a chance to continue being good members of society
here in the United States where it is safe. I have suffered so much
in the past. Please help me and others like me make a better fu-
Thank you for your time, and thank you for listening to me
Senator ABRAHAM. Thank you, Miss Robergeau. I know how
tough this has to be for you and others who are here today.
Miss Miclisse, thank you for being here, too. It's your turn.
STATEMENT OF LOUICIANA MICLISSE
Ms. MICLISSE. Good morning. My name is Louiciana Miclisse. I
would like to thank Senator Abraham and the Immigration Sub-
committee for giving me this opportunity. The proposed law would
help my family and me very much.
After I came to the United States, my Aunt Nadia told me that
my father and mother had died because they were sick. But re-
cently, my aunt told me I was ready to know the truth. She told
me that the military had shot and killed my father and that's why
she took me out of Haiti. They killed him because he was a leader
in a group which supported democracy. Someone also shot and
killed my mother. This hurts me very much. I do not understand
how they could take my father and mother away from me like that.
I am afraid to go back to Haiti. I am afraid the people who killed
my parents will kill me, also. Now all I have is my aunt Nadia who
came with me to the United States. She is like a mother to me.
Living in the United States has been wonderful for me. I love my
school. I am on the honor roll in the fourth grade at West Home-
stead Elementary School. I make good grades so that I can go to
medical school. I have decided that I want to be a doctor when I
grow up so that I can help people from dying.
I heard that most children in Haiti do not go to school. I would
be so sad if that happened to me. I also love my church. I partici-
pate in our Haitian dance group and I get to help take up the offer-
ings on Sundays sometimes. I am very thankful to live in a country
where I have enough food to eat. I hear that most children in Haiti
I understand that even though my parents were killed, my appli-
cation for asylum may be denied. Then I would have to go back to
Haiti. That is why I am asking you to help me. Please pass the law
that will allow my family and me to stay in the United States
where we are safe. Thank you very much.
Senator ABRAHAM. Thank you, Louiciana.
STATEMENT OF BISHOP THOMAS G. WENSKI
Bishop WENSKI. Good morning, Senator. I was in Michigan last
week and I think I got that same bug that you have.
I am Thomas G. Wenski, auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of
Miami. I am testifying today on behalf of Archbishop John C.
Favalora. The Archbishop was to appear before you on behalf of the
National Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on Migration,
of which he is a member, and in his capacity as Archbishop of the
Archdiocese of Miami. Unfortunately, he was unable to be present
today because he recently fractured a bone in his arm. But I am
happy to be here to represent him because, before becoming Auxil-
iary Bishop of Miami, I worked among Haitians here in south Flor-
ida since 1978.
I speak Creole. I have been a pastor, and I still am a pastor of
three Haitian Catholic parishes here in Dade and Broward County.
In that capacity, I have also visited several locations, the Guanta-
namo base, rendering pastoral services to the Haitians there, as
well as those here in Florida.
I would like to submit the remarks prepared by the Archbishop
for the record, and I will present an abbreviated version of that.
Senator ABRAHAM. Thank you. The statement will be submitted
Bishop WENSKI. We commend you for your efforts, especially on
behalf of legal immigrants and refugees, your efforts on this par-
ticular matter. We welcome the opportunity to present the views of
the United States Catholic Conference [USCC] and the Archdiocese
of Miami on the urgent need to provide justice and fairness to Hai-
tian nationals living in our midst. These brave souls have faced du-
ress, extreme hardship, and political strife in their native land.
They sought and were extended the protection of the U.S. Govern-
ment at a time of great need.
But now they find themselves in legal limbo or in danger of im-
minent return to a troubled Haiti due to the interaction of two dy-
namics: one, our Government's inability to adjudicate in a timely
fashion their long-standing claims for asylum, and two, a number
of ill-conceived provisions in last year's Illegal Immigration Reform
and Immigrant Responsibility Act. These factors have resulted in
many Haitian nationals here facing removal from the United
States without reasonable consideration. Many of them find them-
selves in this position even though they were previously found by
our Government to have a credible fear of persecution.
The Catholic Church has long spoken out for Haitians and has
maintained a commitment to those who have sought refuge. During
his 1983 visit to Haiti, Pope John Paul II called on the church and
others of good will to help find ways to ensure that the Haitian
people have opportunities to live a "truly human life".
In 1982, Cardinal Bevilacqua, the Archbishop of Philadelphia,
testified before the Senate Subcommittee on Immigration and Refu-
gee Policy about the incarceration of Haitian asylum seekers. He
made clear at that time that "these good people are of special con-
cern to the church, which has sought for so long to relieve their
misery and to open the door to a life filled with hope rather than
USCC officials testified before Congress in 1989, 1991, and again
in 1994, on behalf of the Haitians. Our message has been clear and
consistent, that those who have existed in this state of uncertainty
cannot live a truly human life until a resolution is provided by you
and your colleagues in Congress. It is imperative that we not ig-
nore Haitians in the shadows or push them further into the shad-
ows with continued inaction.
I note, Mr. Chairman, that earlier this year Congress passed and
the President signed into law the Nicaraguan Adjustment and
Central American Relief Act, which provided relief for certain Nica-
raguans and Cuban refugees and other Central Americans and
eastern Europeans that are in this country. The Catholic Con-
ference strongly supported this legislation and we applaud Con-
gress and the President for enacting this important law. We were
disappointed, however, when the final legislative remedy did not
provide relief to similarly situated Haitians residing in the United
I commend you for stepping forward and holding this hearing
today, and ask that you take back to your colleagues the message
that the United States Catholic Conference, which represents the
Bishops of all the United States, strongly urges Congress to move
expeditiously to provide similar relief for Haitians.
It is with the aim of ensuring that Haitian nationals are treated
with dignity and justice that the Catholic Church in the United
States has maintained a commitment to Haitians seeking protec-
tion in the United States. This commitment has been reflected
through the work of the bishops' national Office of Migration and
Refugee Services. We have been historically one of two national
groups which have assisted the United States Government in the
resettlement of Haitian asylum seekers.
In our case, we have done so through Catholic diocesan social
service agencies across the country. Individuals were referred to us
for resettlement by the then contracting agency, Community Rela-
tions Service, Department of Justice. We received and resettled
well over 10,000 Haitians. Diocesan resettlement programs, espe-
cially those in Miami, Palm Beach, Brooklyn, Boston, and New
York, where the majority of the Haitians settled, provided or ar-
ranged pro bono legal representation for these people as they pur-
sued requests for political asylum. Right now, our legal program
here in the Archdiocese of Miami alone represents some 6,000 Hai-
tian clients, among them 3,500 hit ball (?) clients, seeking resolu-
tion of their immigration situation. We do this while utilizing the
service of four attorneys.
As I am sure you're aware, there is ample precedent for Congress
to take action to provide for adjustment of refugee-like populations
to lawful permanent resident status. We did this earlier this year
for Nicaraguans and Cubans, and Congress has done this on other
occasions in this decade for other populations. Such examples are
found in P.L. 102-404, the Chinese Student Protection Act of 1992,
and last year's legislative on behalf of Poles and Hungarians.
You have the statement, and as these two young children pointed
out, we're dealing not with just statistics but real live people. In
my parish here in Miami I have several youngsters. One young
man, if he keeps up his grades, will be valedictorian of his class,
his high school class, and yet he has no status, no papers, no
chance for the future. That represents a tragedy, not only for the
Haitians involved, but for all America, because these people have
and are in a position to contribute to the welfare of this country.
[The statement of Archbishop Favalora follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF MOST REVEREND JOHN C. FAVALORA
Good morning, Mr. Chairman, and welcome to Miami.
I am Thomas G. Wenski, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Miami. I am testi-
fying today on behalf of Archbishop John C. Favalora of Miami. Archbishop
Favalora was to appear before you on behalf of the National Conference of Catholic
Bishops Committee on Migration, of which he is a member, and in his capacity as
Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Miami. Unfortunately, he was unable to be present
due to an unanticipated illness.
I cannot let my appearance before this Subcommittee pass without taking a mo-
ment to commend you, Mr. Chairman, for your efforts on behalf of legal immigrants
and refugees. Your courageous leadership during the 104th Congress was instru-
mental in defeating attempts to make severe cuts in legal immigration. This current
Congress, too, has faced difficult immigration issues. We appreciate your continued
leadership in this Congress on these important issues. Your efforts to maintain re-
sponsible admissions policies and other legislative endeavors on behalf of newcomers
to our country are greatly appreciated by the Church. Your leadership, and that of
the Subcommittee you chair, have added critically important voices to a debate that
has often otherwise been mired in misconception and emotionalism.
Today, I welcome this opportunity to present the views of the United States
Catholic Conference (USCC), representing the Catholic Bishops in the United
States, and the Archdiocese of Miami on the urgent need to provide justice and fair-
ness to Haitian nationals living in our midst. These brave souls have faced duress,
extreme hardship and political strife in their native land. They sought and were ex-
tended, the protection of the U.S. government at a time of great need. But they now
find themselves in legal limbo or in danger of imminent return to a troubled Haiti
due to the interaction of two dynamics; (1) our government's inability to adjudicate
in a timely fashion their longstanding claims for asylum aid (2) a number of ill-con-
ceived provisions in last year's Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Respon-
sibility Act (IIRIRA). These factors have resulted in many Haitian nationals here
facing removal from the United States without reasonable consideration. Many of
them find themselves in this position even though they were previously found by
our government to have a credible fear of persecution.
The Catholic Church has long spoken out for Haitians and has maintained a com-
mitment to those who have sought refuge. During his 1983 visit to Haiti, Pope John
Paul II called on the Church and others of good will to find ways to ensure that
the Haitian people have opportunities to live a "truly human life." 1 In 1982, An-
thony Cardinal Bevilaqua, the Cardinal Archbishop of Philadelphia, testified before
the Senate Subcommittee on Immigration and Refugee Policy about the incarcer-
ation of Haitian asylum seekers. In testimony concerning Haitians in 1984-then
Archbishop Bevilaqua made clear that "these good people are of special concern to
the Church which has sought for so long to relieve their misery and to open the
door to a life filled with hope rather than despair."2 USCC officials testified before
Congress in 1989, 1991, and again in 1994 on behalf of the Haitians. Our message
has been clear and consistent that those who have existed in this state of uncer-
tainty cannot live a "truly human life"3 until a resolution is provided by you and
your colleagues in Congress. It is imperative that we not ignore Haitians in the
shadows or push them further into the shadows with our continued inaction.
I note, Mr. Chairman, that earlier this year Congress passed and the President
signed into law the Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act, which
provided for the adjustment of status of certain Nicaraguan and Cuban refugees and
or equitable consideration of the immigration claims of Salvadoran, Guatemalan,
'Pope John Paul II, "Something Must Change Here," Homily presented at Duvalier Airport
in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, March 9, 1983.
2 Statement of the Most Reverend Anthony J. Bevilaqua before the Subcommittee on Immigra-
tion, Refugees, and International Law, the Committee on the Judiciary, U.S. House of Rep-
resentatives, May 9, 1984.
3Pope John Paul II, "Something Must Change Here," Homily presented at Duvalier Airport
in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, March 9, 1983.
and certain Eastern European immigrants who are in this country. The United
States Catholic Conference strongly supported legislation to accomplish this end,
and we applaud Congress and the President for enacting this important law. How-
ever, we were disappointed when the final legislative remedy did not provide relief
to similarly situated Haitians residing in the U.S. I commend you for stepping for-
ward and holding this hearing today, and I ask that you take back to your col-
leagues the message that the United States Catholic Conference strongly urges Con-
gress to move expeditiously to provide similar relief for Haitians.
It is with the aim of ensuring that Haitian nationals are treated with dignity and
justice that the Catholic Church in the U.S. has maintained a commitment to Hai-
tians seeking protection in the United States. This commitment has also been re-
flected through the work of the Bishops' National Office of Migration and Refugee
Services/USCC. Historically, we have been one of two national groups which have
assisted the U.S. government in the resettlement of Haitian asylum seekers. In our
case, we have done so through Catholic diocesan social service agencies across the
country. Individuals were referred to us for resettlement by the then contracting
agency, Community Relations Service, Department of Justice. We received and re-
settled well over 10,000 Haitians. Diocesan resettlement programs, especially those
in Miami, Palm Beach, Brooklyn, Boston and New York, where the majority of the
Haitians settled, provided or arranged pro bono legal representation for these people
as they pursued requests for political asylum. Our legal program here in the Arch-
diocese alone, represents more than 1,000 Haitian clients seeking resolution of their
immigration situation. We do this while utilizing the services of only two attorneys.
As I am sure you are aware, there is ample precedent for Congress to take action
to provide for adjustment of refugee-like populations to Lawful Permanent Resident
(LPR) status. Not only did Congress do so earlier this year for Nicaraguans and Cu-
bans, Congress has done so on other occasions in this decade for other populations.
Two such examples are found in P.L. 102-404, the Chinese Student Projection Act
of 1992, and in last year's IIRIA legislation, which provided for adjustment of status
for Poles and Hungarians. Certainly, this provides ample precedent for S. 1504, the
legislation which is the subject of today's hearing, its companion measure, H.R.
3049, and H.R. 3303. I note that all three of these bills have bipartisan lists of co-
sponsors, and they all would provide an excellent basis for resolving the plight of
Haitians here in the U.S.
Earlier this year, Mr. Chairman, Archbishop Favalora delivered a statement on
the effects of the 1996 immigration reform legislation on southern Florida. He point-
ed out at that time that tens of thousands in southern Florida were facing the loss
of their work permits and possible deportation. He spoke then particularly of Nica-
raguans, and others similarly situated-including other Central Americans and Hai-
tians. These are individuals who found themselves in an uncertain situation as a
result of U.S. policy and the complexities of immigration law, but who could not
move their cases forward expeditiously or apply for other forms of humane and com-
passionate relief. The Archbishop appealed to both the executive and legislative
branches to address this issue. Not only did he speak out for the Archdiocese of
Miami but so, too, did our brother bishops from around the country. This was ac-
companied by statements and other communications of the National Conference of
Catholic Bishops Committee on Migration and the President of the National Con-
ference of Catholic Bishops United States Catholic Conference, Bishop Anthony M.
Pilla, of Cleveland as recently as November 4th of this year, the National Catholic
Conference of Bishops Committee on Migration spoke of its support for legislation
to provide relief for affected Nicaraguan, Salvadoran, Guatemalan and Haitian na-
tionals, all of whom fled persecution in their countries of nationality and thus are
I would like to take a moment to talk about one individual here in the Arch-
diocese of Miami who would be tragically affected if legislation is not passed. Jean
Baptiste is a twenty-five-year-old Haitian national who arrived in the United States
on August 15, 1988, at the age of sixteen. Since his arrival he has lived with his
United States citizen uncle, his cousin, and a woman whom he considers his sister.
He cared for his young cousin while his uncle worked long hours. It was his respon-
sibility to take care of the home as well as make sure his young cousin completed
his school work. His own performance in school resulted in a perfect attendance cer-
tificate for his junior and senior years of high school. He played football and grad-
uated from North Miami Senior High School in 1992, completed a course in electric
wiring at Lindsey Hopkins Technical Educational Center in 1993, and in 1994 went
on to attend college at North Dakota State College of Science (NDSCS). While there,
he played for the NDSCS football team and also demonstrated, according to his
coach, "very good academic potential." In a statement to the court this year he said:
"I dream of having the chance to return to school. I want to look forward to my fu-
ture, yet it's difficult with the uncertainty of my status here in the U.S. I want a
chance to succeed. I am what one would consider a people person, so I dream of
attaining a degree in counseling. I want to help others help themselves. I have
learned a lot from many people and I would like the opportunity to pass that knowl-
edge on to someone who can use it. All I'm asking is for a chance, a chance to par-
take and appreciate a sound education and a rewarding future. I thank you for your
time and look forward to hearing from you."4 Jean Baptiste has been living in the
United States for nearly ten years, he speaks fluent English and has become im-
mersed in the American culture. Yet our immigration laws may return him to Haiti.
Haitians are a part of the rich and vibrant diversity of southern Florida, particu-
larly Miami, and their contributions to this community and to our nation should not
be underestimated. Many fled to this country after having tried to build and defend
a democracy not unlike our own. They are men, women and children. They have
opened businesses, established homes, raised children, paid taxes, served in our
military, and, in the bettering of their lives, they have contributed to the greater
good of this nation.
We must remain mindful of the consequences for Haiti of a mass return of Hai-
tians to that country. Haiti is truly involved in a struggle to maintain its fledgling
democracy. Newspaper headlines over the last year have included; "Ton ton
Macoutes Mount Distabilization Campaign", "Killings Surge in Haiti as Elections
Near", and "Haiti's Elections: U.S. had hoped for Jefferson, Got Duvalier." In a No-
vember 30, 1996, letter to the Secretary General of the United Nations the then
President Preval requested that the mandate of the OAS/UN International Civilian
Mission to Haiti be extended until December 31, 1997. This request is evidence that
Haiti's own government recognized its limitations and weaknesses in protecting the
rights of its own citizens and fulfilling its basic obligation as a state to protect its
citizens. Clearly, further pressures on the Government of Haiti, such as the return
of nationals, would only jeopardize any forward progress. We must not ignore the
risk to those individuals who would be returned to Haiti. The United Nations High
Commissioner for Refugees wrote in an August 14, 1997, letter to Mr. John Evans,
Director of the Resource Information Center of the Immigration and Naturalization
Service: "While the efforts of the Government of Haiti and the international commu-
nity to institute reforms are laudable, this Office believes that it would be inappro-
priate to conclude generally that Haitian asylum-seekers would no longer face perse-
cution upon return to Haiti. In light of these indications, asylum applications from
Haitians should continue to be considered on their individual merits, taking into ac-
count any claims of past persecution, current country conditions, and the potential
for continued human rights abuses."5 These are critical factors to take into account
in determining the need for this legislation.
I would like to emphasize that the legislative proposals being considered during
today's hearing would provide nothing more than justice and fair play to Haitian
nationals. Two of the bills-H.R. 3049 and S. 1504, could provide an opportunity for
permanent residence for those Haitian nationals who requested political asylum in
the United States before 1995, and those who were paroled into the United States
after being found by the Immigration and Naturalization Service to have a credible
fear of persecution upon return to Haiti. In addition, they would extend protection
to the spouses and children of those who are found eligible for this relief. The third
bill, H.R. 3303 would extend this same opportunity to all Haitian nationals here
prior to December 31, 1995. Most importantly, these measures would provide access
to relief for those harmed as a result of the unintended consequences of last year's
immigration reform legislation and others left in limbo due to our government's in-
If your hearing today contributes to further Congressional efforts to bring equi-
table relief to the Haitians among us, then I and my brother bishops will be heart-
ened. We eagerly look forward to Congressional action on this issue early in the
In closing, Mr. Chairman, I ask that you and other members of the Subcommittee
urge the Administration to halt the immigration proceedings of these individuals
while a legislative solution is being pursued. While we have heard of assurances
that this will be done, we remain concerned. For instance, the legal program in the
Archdiocese has 40 cases scheduled before the Executive Office of Immigration Re-
view, "EOIR", for the month of January with an expectation of receiving between
four and ten interviews a week with the asylum corps. I have been informed that
our attorneys have been urging the government trial attorneys and immigration
4 Notarized Statement of Jean Pierre Jean Baptiste.
6August 14, 1997, UNHCR Regional Representative's letter to the Director of the Immigration
and Naturalization Service's Resource Center regarding "Current Country Conditions in Haiti."
judges to continue these cases with work authorization. This would keep the cases
before the immigration judges for immediate action. But there appears to be no
clear policy and/or directive that has been enunciated in regard to these proceed-
ings. Direction is needed from the Executive Director of EOIR and the INS to con-
tinue these cases in proceedings and reschedule asylum interviews for a future date
pending legislative action. This would preclude the return of individuals to Haiti,
calm panic and confusion in the community so individuals will not be afraid to ap-
pear before INS, and prevent duplicative work by INS and EOIR.
I thank you, Chairman Abraham, for providing me this opportunity to express the
views of the United States Catholic Conference, the Bishops' Committee on Migra-
tion, and the Archdiocese of Miami. I applaud you for your leadership on behalf of
the Haitian people.
Senator ABRAHAM. Bishop Wenski, thank you very much.
Mr. Rees, it's your turn.
STATEMENT OF GROVER JOSEPH REES
Mr. REES. Mr. Chairman, my name is Grover Joseph Rees. I was
General Counsel of the INS between 1991 and 1993. I worked in
Guantanamo and in Port-au-Prince, in our in-country processing
When we paroled 11,000 Haitians into the United States, I am
painfully aware that we also denied the opportunity to many thou-
sands more people to come to the United States during that time.
The American tradition of generosity toward people who have
fled persecution is an essential part of our political culture. I want
to add my thanks to you, Senator, to those who have gone before.
I often say that when I was learning how to be a conservative Re-
publican, you didn't have to be against immigrants, and you were
supposed to be in favor of refugees. There are people who have
been trying to change that rule in the middle of the game, and al-
most singlehandedly you have reaffirmed on the conservative Re-
publican side that this generosity, this welcome to people who are
in trouble because they share our values, is an American tradition,
a bipartisan tradition. I also thank the others who testified for
their commitment, and Senator Graham.
Until the first 150 years of our history, we didn't need any spe-
cial refugee laws because the general rule was that you could come
in, unless we thought there was something terribly wrong with
you. The string of anti-immigration laws that were passed in the
1920's had the tragic effect of keeping thousands of people who had
managed to escape from Nazi Germany from finding safety and
freedom here in the United States.
As it happens, the most vivid instance of this exclusion happened
right here in Miami. The ship, the St. Louis, carrying several hun-
dred German Jews, was moored in sight of Miami for several days
and was finally denied permission to land. Those people had to re-
turn to occupied Europe, where many died in concentration camps.
It was in an effort to ensure that this sort of thing would never
happen again that Congress began passing specific refugee legisla-
tion in the 1940's and 1950's, culminating in the Refugee Act of
1980. The general rule is that refugee policy trumps immigration
policy, that even if you are not somebody who passes the social and
economic tests to be an immigrant, refugee laws subordinate those
social and economic policies to the moral principle, that we cannot
return anybody to persecution.
The most important refugee protection law arguably, however, is
not any of the specific refugee laws, laws that have the word "refu-
gee" in their title. Rather, it is the Attorney General's power to pa-
role people into the country; that is, to allow for their provisional
entry, even though no law specifically provides for their admission.
Over the past 40 years, over a million escapees from brutal re-
gimes have been allowed into the United States under the parole
power. In some cases, these people might have been unable to bear
the burden of proof, to prove that they were refugees. In other
cases, they could have borne that burden of proof but there was
simply too many of them. They had to be moved too quickly.
The refugee admission process is a complicated one. It can take
months, or even years, and the problem is we can't always plan for
the existence of refugees. The only people who can plan for whether
people are going to be persecuted are the persecutors themselves.
So that in refugee policy, as in war and peace, one of the costs of
being the "good guys" is that you have to play defense rather than
offense. You have to be reacting to situations that are not of your
own making, and you have to react quickly and you have to react
by doing the right thing. The parole power is often better suited
to that kind of quick reaction than the formal refugee admission
Now, the problem with parole is that once people get here, they
don't have any formal status in the United States. They don't have
the right to work, they don't have the right to be reunited with
their families, they can never become citizens, unless something
else is done for them. In general, that has been adjustment of sta-
tus, and we have allowed hundreds of thousands of people under
a list of laws that have already been mentioned several times by
other witnesses here, beginning with the Hungarian Freedom
Fighters in 1957, who were paroled and then allowed to adjust,
going right up to the Nicaraguans and the other Central Americans
just a couple of months ago.
Now, I suggest, Mr. Chairman, that the Haitians that have been
paroled into the United States between 1991 and 1994 have all of
the equities that these other people who have been paroled in
under refugee-like situations have. They came in at a time when
their country was governed by a particularly brutal regime. In the
words of President Clinton a few weeks before he finally changed
the policy of direct return, they are "chopping people's faces off
down there." Their asylum cases have taken years to adjudicate.
They have built families here. Some have been here 6 years.
Finally, if there is any country to which we don't need to send
some kind of a message, that we're not "softies" by returning a few
thousand people, it is Haiti. I hope that we will never again repeat
the experience of the St. Louis. The return of some of those Hai-
tians who got in sight of Miami was tragically reminiscent of that,
and I am proud to support this legislation.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Rees follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF GROVER JOSEPH REES
Mr. Chairman and members of the Subcommittee:
My name is Grover Joseph Rees. Between 1991 and 1993, when over 11,000 Hai-
tians were paroled into the United States and many thousands of others were forc-
ibly returned to Haiti, I served as General Counsel of the United States Immigra-
tion and Naturalization Service. It is in this former capacity that I have been in-
vited to testify, Because I am currently employed by another branch of the govern-
ment, I should make clear that I speak only for myself.
The American tradition of generosity toward people who have fled persecution on
account of political opinion, religion, race, and similar characteristics is an essential
part of our political culture. Until the early part of this century, there was no need
for special laws allowing for the admission of refugees, because our immigration
laws provided open admission to anyone who was not a criminal or a member of
certain other categories deemed threatening to public health or safety.
The passage of national origin quotas and other strict limits on immigration to
the United States in the 1920s had the effect of preventing many thousands of peo-
ple who had managed to escape from Nazi Germany during the 1930s from finding
safety in the United States. The most dramatic instance of such exclusion was the
forced return to Europe of several hundred Jewish passengers on the Saint Louis,
a vessel which had been moored for several days in sight of Miami, unsuccessfully
seeking permission to land. Many of these passengers later died in concentration
In order to ensure that immigration restrictions would never again result in the
return of refugees to persecution, Congress enacted the Displaced Persons Act of
1948, the Refugee Relief Act of 1953, and other refugee-specific legislation culminat-
ing in the Refugee Act of 1980. The general rule of such legislation is that refugee
policy trumps immigration policy: even if someone is deemed inadmissible under the
social and economic policies that govern the immigration laws, the refugee laws sub-
ordinate these policies to the paramount moral principle that we must not deliver
that person into the hands of his persecutors. Our law also recognizes that in many
circumstances, not returning these people to persecution means allowing them to re-
main in the United States and eventually to become Americans.
Arguably, however, the most important refugee protection law is not any of the
laws that explicitly mention the word "refugee." Rather, it may be the Attorney
General's power to "parole" people into the United States-that is, to let them enter
on a provisional basis even though no law specifically provides for their admission.
Over the past forty years over a million escapees from brutal regimes have been al-
lowed into the United States under the parole power. In some cases, these people
might have been unable to meet the burden of proof required to establish refugee
status in a formal proceeding, yet the conditions in the countries from which they
had escaped afforded no certainty of safe return. In most cases, however, the parole
power was used because of its relative speed and flexibility. The Refugee Act lays
out a careful and detailed plan for annual refugee admissions. Unfortunately, how-
ever, the only people who can really plan for the existence of people in danger of
persecution are the persecutors themselves. Routine processing of refugee cases can
take months or even years, and requires the co-operation of a first asylum country
or sometimes of the very country in which the refugee has a well founded fear of
persecution. Such processing is better suited to people who are already out of harm's
way, living in a refugee camp in a safe third country, than to people who are still
in imminent danger. In refugee policy as in matters of war and peace, the need to
play defense rather than offense-to react to situations not of our own making, and
to react quickly, and to react by doing the right thing-is among the costs of being
the United States of America.
The most serious problem with the use of the parole power for refugee protection
is that it gives refugees no formal status in the United States. They have no right
to work, to be reunited with their families, or to become citizens. They often live
in constant fear that a change in policy will result in their sudden removal from
the United States. Some of these problems can be alleviated by other administrative
devices. In the end, however, we must choose whether to deport these people or to
let them adjust their status to that of lawful permanent residents.
In the vast majority of cases, we have chosen to let these refugees adjust to legal
status. Some of them, such as those with close relatives already in the United
States, have been able to adjust under the general immigration laws. Most, how-
ever, have required special legislation allowing their adjustment, and Congress has
frequently enacted such legislation:
The first large-scale use of the parole power to allow the entrance of people with
refugee characteristics was in 1957, when President Eisenhower announced that pa-
role would be used for people who had escaped Hungary during the 1956 Soviet in-
vasion. The next year Congress enacted the Hungarian Refugee Act of 1958 to allow
these freedom fighters and their families to adjust to permanent resident status
after two years of residence in the United States. In 1960, Congress enacted the
Fair Share Refugee Act, which specifically authorized the use of parole for thou-
sands of refugees in specific national groups, mostly from Europe, and provided that
these refugees could adjust their status after two years of residence.
The Cuban Refugee Adjustment Act of 1966 allowed for the adjustment of hun-
dreds of thousands of people who had paroled into the United States from Cuba.
The law initially required two years of residence prior to adjustment, but a 1976
amendment modified this to one year. This law remains in force and has allowed
for the adjustment of over a half-million escapees from the Castro regime.
The Indochinese Refugee Act of 1977 provided for the adjustment to lawful per-
manent resident status of thousands of parolees from Viet Nam, Cambodia, and
Laos. Again, hundreds of thousands of people availed themselves of this provision.
A general "Refugee Parolee provision" of a 1978 appropriations bill provided for
the adjustment of parolees with refugee characteristics, without respect to national-
ity, including those who entered after the date of enactment through October 1980.
Among the principal beneficiaries of this provision were escapees from Communist
China to Hong Kong, about 15,000 of whom had been paroled into the United States
under a 1962 Presidential order. Soviet Jews paroled under a 1971 Attorney Gen-
eral directive were also beneficiaries of this provision, as were Vietnamese, Cam-
bodians, and Laotians who entered after the 1979 deadline set by the Indochinese
The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1966 (IRCA) contained a provision
allowing the adjustment of about 40,000 Haitians who had been paroled in the late
1970s and early 1980s prior to the 1981 initiation of the "Alien Migrant Interdiction
Program" which provided for the direct return to Haiti of almost all Haitians who
attempted to reach the United States by sea between 1981 and 1991-as well as
several thousand Cubans who had escaped via Mariel in 1980 and who had been
disqualified from adjustment under technical provisions of the Cuban Refugee Ad-
The Lautenberg Amendment of 1989 provided for the adjustment of parolees
from the former Soviet Union and Southeast Asia who are members of certain speci-
fied groups, including Jews, Evangelical Christians, and Ukrainian Christians from
the former Soviet Union and re-education camp survivors and former U.S. govern-
ment employees from Viet Nam. Congress has extended this provision five times,
most recently last month.
The Chinese Student Protection Act of 1992 provided for the adjustment of sta-
tus of nationals of the People's Republic of China who had been admitted or paroled
into the United States and who were in the United States during or shortly after
the Tiananmen massacre.
Most recently, just last month Congress enacted legislation to permit the ad-
justment of Nicaraguans (typically parolees) who entered the United States on or
before December 1, 1995. The legislation also permits the adjustment of certain Cu-
bans who do not qualify for adjustment under the 1966 act, and for nationals of El
Salvador, Guatemala, and the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe who can es-
tablish seven years of residence, good moral character, and "extreme hardship" if
removed from the United States.
This list is not exhaustive, but illustrates that adjustment of status has been the
rule rather than the exception for people who have been paroled into the United
States in large numbers under country-specific programs in response to a refugee-
generating situation in their home country. In many of these cases, the United
States could have chosen instead to require that each parolee establish his or her
refugee status in an asylum proceeding, but this might have taxed an already over-
burdened asylum adjudication system to the breaking point. Moreover, delays in the
asylum system have often resulted in situations in which a parolee who could have
obtained asylum if his or her case had been adjudicated within a year or two can
no longer do so when the case finally comes up for adjudication. Although these ap-
plicants may no longer face imminent danger in their home countries, so much time
has passed that their jobs, families, and lives are now in the United States, with
no real prospect of re-establishing them in their countries of origin. In these cir-
cumstances asylum is no longer the appropriate remedy but this does not mean that
no remedy is appropriate.
Haitians who were paroled into the United States between 1991 and 1994 have
many of the equities that characterize groups who have been granted adjustment
of status by special legislation since 1957. They came at a time when their country
was being ruled by a particularly brutal regime. In the words of President Clinton,
a few weeks before he finally reversed our policy of direct forcible return, "They are
chopping people's faces off down there." Moreover, the overwhelming majority of
these Haitians were paroled only after a finding that they individually faced a "cred-
ible fear of persecution"-that is, that they would have a reasonably good chance
of success if allowed to apply for asylum in the United States. That their asylum
cases have never been adjudicated is not their own fault, but the consequence of an
asylum system that is now working better than it was in 1991 but that still encoun-
ters delays and backlogs. Although the particular danger these people were flee-
ing-the illegal government that ruled from 1991 until 1994 is no longer in power,
those who returned would still return to an environment rife with violence-some
random, some politically targeted. Moreover, like many of the groups who benefited
from prior legislation, these people have built their lives here in the United States.
Some have been here six years. Many have children who are United States citizens
and who speak English better than they speak Creole. These are American families;
they have contributed to our economy and been shaped by our society.
Finally, I would like to suggest yet another reason for keeping these people here
in the United States. These are the lucky ones, the people who were allowed in just
before, and in a few cases just after, the period of direct return that lasted from
1992 to 1994. During part of that period we not only forcibly returned people who
were interdicted in international waters, but, due to a particularly egregious 1993
Justice Department legal opinion, we even began interdicting them within the terri-
torial waters of the United States and denying them the benefits of our asylum
laws. Like the passengers on the Saint Louis, hundreds of Haitians actually saw
Miami before they were forced back into the hands of their oppressors. Perhaps the
continuing presence of their brothers and sisters as productive members of our soci-
ety will remind us that whatever it was we were afraid of back in 1992 and 1993,
it was not worth the sacrifice of our American tradition of welcoming people who
have managed to escape from dangerous places in search of safety and freedom.
Senator ABRAHAM. Thank you, Mr. Rees, and thank you for your
historic perspective as well.
I think one of the problems we've had in our deliberations in re-
cent years about immigration policy is that we sort of lose sight of
the history, particularly of some of the incidents that you men-
tioned. We tend to behave too often as if immigration issues are
new. They're not new. The same debate, the same arguments
against immigration that we hear today were made before, whether
it was in the 1930's or in the 1850's.
I think it's vital that we continue to keep people focused on that
history, because if they understand it, they realize that all the
claims and all of the criticisms and all of the allegations, all of the
assertions of bad things that immigration would bring about, were
proven unfounded each time that debate has happened. And yet
the same arguments are back before us again.
Miss Sa, thank you very much for being here. We appreciate it.
We will turn to you at this time.
STATEMENT OF MIRAAN SA
Ms. SA. Good morning. Once again, my name is Miraan Sa and
I am here representing Amnesty International USA, as a former
member of their board of directors, and as a member of the Na-
tional Refugee Steering Committee.
Also, in order to stay within my time limits, I have prepared a
shorter statement based on my longer written statement.
Senator ABRAHAM. We will introduce everybody's full statements
into the record.
Ms. SA. Thank you.
First I would like to thank you for inviting Amnesty Inter-
national USA here today at this hearing. We welcome the oppor-
tunity to testify about the current human rights situation in Haiti.
The statement before the Senate Subcommittee on Immigration
focuses on current human rights concerns in Haiti, to highlight the
problems that Haitians could face if returned to Haiti. Amnesty
International has long been concerned with human rights viola-
tions there, including the time of the Duvaliers reign up to the
present time. These concerns have been documented by Amnesty
International over the years in reports, campaign materials, and
press releases. The information which follows is based on our re-
search, which might include such things as trial observations,
interviews with released prisoners, meetings with government offi-
cials, and fact-finding missions sent out to conduct on-the-spot in-
For example, I was a member of the Amnesty International dele-
gation to the United States Naval Base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba
in September 1994, to look at the desperate situation facing Hai-
tian asylum seekers there.
Other types of research Amnesty International conducts to docu-
ment human rights concerns, such as those details which follow in
this testimony, may also include eye-witness testimony, reports
from legal experts, letters from prisoners and their families, and
information from other organizations around the world.
Conditions in Haiti are still far from being stable, and have wors-
ened in recent months. Although there has been a significant de-
crease in the scale of ongoing human rights violations since
Aristide was returned to power in October 1994, serious problems
persist. Progress in establishing institutions that can guarantee re-
spect and protection of human rights has been patchy and slow, es-
pecially in establishing an effective justice system.
The question of impunity for past and current human rights
abuses has not been seriously addressed in Haiti. Impunity ground-
ed to human rights violators in Haiti is a serious concern because
it has to do with an exemption from punishment that has serious
implications for the proper administration of justice. It occurs when
investigations are not pursued and when perpetrators of human
rights violations are not held to account. Amnesty International be-
lieves that impunity such as we see in Haiti cloaks a self-perpet-
uating cycle of violence resulting in continuing violations of human
Specifically, this has meant that in Haiti most of the perpetra-
tors of human rights violations that characterized the military gov-
ernment of General Cedras are still at large. In some cases, they
still wield power in local communities, though in general these per-
petrators do not have formal positions of responsibility. Following
the return of President Aristide, there were attempts to disarm
some of the armed groups. These attempts were not wholly success-
ful and many of these persons still have access to arms.
The present government led by President Preval faces ongoing
problems. The political and security situation remains extremely
fragile, particularly in the absence of strong institutions that can
guarantee respect and protection for human rights.
Following the resignation of Haiti's Prime Minister in June 1997,
President Preval has been unable to name a new prime minister
acceptable to the Haitian Parliament. Although a new candidate is
currently under consideration, there are still signs that the crisis
may continue for some time and hinder passage of a draft bill re-
garding judicial reform.
In the meantime, the judicial system remains generally incapable
of seriously addressing the question of impunity, both for common
crimes and human rights violations. The implications of continuing
impunity in Haiti are serious. Some 85 to 90 percent of all those
in detention have not been brought to trial. Although a few trials
of human rights violators have taken place, in most cases the de-
fendant was either tried in absentia or acquitted for lack of evi-
dence. In most of these cases, there were also indications that those
involved in the trial-for example, court officials, lawyers, wit-
nesses, and jury members-may have been subjected to pressures,
such as threats or the offer of bribes.
In such circumstances, victims and witnesses in particular are
very reluctant to come forward and provide testimony. The net re-
sult of the failure of the Haitian authorities to seriously address
these issues is that many of those known to be responsible for
human rights violations under the military are still at large and
often still in a position to pose a threat to those who have sought
On a more positive note, the Justice ministry is putting signifi-
cant resources and effort into bringing to court one particularly no-
table case, the Raboteau massacre in April 1994. It is expected to
come to trial in early 1998 in Gonaives. We welcome this initiative,
which will be a major test of whether the current justice system,
when given the necessary support, can guarantee fair trials in such
cases. If human rights violators are brought to justice as a result
of the Raboteau trial, this will send a strong message that such be-
havior will not be tolerated.
While not underestimating the enormity of the task in establish-
ing a brand new police force in Haiti, we are concerned by the
human rights record so far. We welcome the efforts of the inspector
general of police to identify and remove those responsible for
human rights violations. However, few, if any, of them have been
brought to trial and serious violations are continuing. There have
been reports of torture and ill-treatment by police, in some cases
resulting in death. Shootings by police, in some instances fatal,
have also been reported in circumstances suggesting excessive use
of force or extrajudicial execution.
Clearly, our conclusion is that anyone returning to Haiti cannot
be assured that they will be protected by the existing Haitian jus-
tice system from former officials who occasioned their flight. In a
June 1997 letter to the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center, we
stated that any blanket assessment that the change in government
can allow all who fled the country to return without fear or harm
is, therefore, incorrect in our view.
Given the concerns raised above, such assurances would appear
to fall far short of what would guarantee safe return. By changing
the status of Haitians identified as having a credible fear of perse-
cution, a practical effect of the Haitian fairness legislation would
be to prevent the repatriation of anyone to a potentially perilous
and risky situation. Amnesty International USA believes that this
bill would be a positive proposal and represents one way of helping
to guarantee that no one would be returned to a country where se-
rious human rights concerns remain.
Thank you for letting me go over the time limit.
[The prepared statement of Ms. Sa follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF MIRAAN SA
Amnesty International USA welcomes the opportunity to testify about the current
human rights situation in Haiti. Amnesty International is a worldwide movement
with over 1,000,000 members in more than 100 countries and territories. The Inter-
national Secretariat in London serves as its headquarters and research center with
more than 300 permanent staff and 95 volunteers all who represent over 50 coun-
tries. Amnesty International's mandate focuses on protecting human rights such as
freeing all prisoners of conscience; ensuring fair and prompt trials for political pris-
oners; ending extrajudicial executions; stopping disappearances; abolishing torture,
the death penalty and other cruel, and inhuman or degrading treatment of pris-
oners. Amnesty International's researchers in London investigate and report on
human rights violations like those just described, and members around the world
work on behalf of people who face such human rights abuses through many different
kinds of actions.
Conditions in Haiti are still far from being stable, and have worsened in recent
months. In September 1991 President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, Haiti's first demo-
cratically-elected president, was overthrown in a military coup led by General Raoul
Cedras. The three years after this coup were followed by gross and systematic
human rights violations at the hands of the security forces. In October 1994 Presi-
dent Aristide returned to power in Haiti following the arrival in the country of a
United States-led Multinational Force. In February 1996 democratically-elected
Ren6 Pr6val succeeded Aristide as President of Haiti.
There had been a significant decrease in the scale of ongoing human rights viola-
tions since October 1994, but serious problems persist. Progress in establishing in-
stitutions that can guarantee respect and protection of human rights has been
patchy and slow, especially in establishing an effective justice system. Amnesty
International has long been concerned with human rights violations in Haiti, includ-
ing the time of the Duvaliers reign up until the present time. These concerns have
been detailed by Amnesty International over the years in reports, campaign mate-
rials, and press releases. This statement before the Senate Subcommittee on Immi-
gration focuses on current human rights concerns in Haiti.
II. CURRENT CONCERNS
The question of impunity for past and current human rights abuses has not been
seriously addressed in Haiti. Impunity has to do with an exemption from punish-
ment that has serious implications for the proper administration of justice. It occurs
when investigations are not pursued and when perpetrators of human rights viola-
tions are not held to account. Amnesty International believes that impunity such
as we see in Haiti cloaks a self-perpetuating cycle of violence resulting in continuing
violations of human rights.
Specifically, this has meant that in Haiti most of the perpetrators of human rights
violations that characterized the military government of General Cedras are still at
large. In some cases they still wield power in local communities, though in general
these perpetrators do not have formal positions of responsibility. Following the re-
turn of President Aristide there were attempts to disarm some of the armed groups.
These attempts were not wholly successful and many of these persons still have ac-
cess to arms.
The present government led by President Preval faces ongoing problems. Among
the problems are serious splits in the Lavalas movement which supported both ex-
President Aristide and President Preval, growing popular discontent over the eco-
nomic situation, and the outcome of the senatorial elections which took place in
April 1997. These factors have weakened government authority. The political and
security situation remains extremely fragile, particularly in the absence of strong
institutions that can guarantee respect and protection for human rights.
Following the resignation of Haiti's Prime Minister in June 1997, President
Preval has been unable to name a new prime minister acceptable to the Haitian
parliament. Although a new candidate is currently under consideration, there are
still signs that the crisis may continue for some time. As a result much parliamen-
tary work, including the approval of budgets, has been virtually paralyzed and the
passage of a draft bill regarding judicial reform, first introduced in August 1996,
has been stalled. Despite the fact that this draft bill has been seen and amended
by both the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate, it would appear that the final
amended version has yet to be agreed upon by both houses.
In the meantime the judicial system remains generally incapable of seriously ad-
dressing the question of impunity, both for common crimes and human rights viola-
tions. The implications of continuing impunity in Haiti are serious. Some 85-90 per-
cent of all those in detention have not been brought to trial. Although a few trials
of human rights violators have taken place, in most cases the defendant was either
tried in absentia or acquitted for lack of evidence. In most of these cases there were
also indications that those involved in the trial (e.g. court officials, lawyers, wit-
nesses and jury members) may have been subjected to pressures, such as threats
or the offer of bribes. In such circumstances, victims and witnesses in particular are
very reluctant to come forward and provide testimony. The net result of the failure
of the Haitian authorities to seriously address these issues is that many of those
known to be responsible for human rights violations under the military are still at
large and often still in a position to pose a threat to those who have sought their
On a more positive note, the Justice Ministry is putting significant resources and
effort into bringing to court one particularly notable case, the Raboteau massacre
in April 1994. It is expected to come to trial in early 1998 in Gonaives. Amnesty
International welcomed this initiative which will be a major test of whether the cur-
rent justice system, when given the necessary support, can guarantee fair trials in
such cases. If human rights violators are brought to justice as a result of the
Raboteau trial, this will send a strong message that such behavior will not be toler-
ated. However, even if the Raboteau trial results in the conviction of human rights
violators, without a revamping of the justice system, there is little indication of a
political will to support such trials or that other cases will receive the same atten-
Even with the expected trial for the Raboteau massacre problems have emerged.
One of the so far 22 defendants in the Raboteau case has escaped from prison and
not yet been recaptured. Prison escapes in such cases are quite a common phenome-
non, partly, it would appear, because of the ongoing presence of former military in
the prison service and the police force. There have also been recent reports of
threats against people involved in bringing such cases to trial, both victims and jus-
tice officials. Similar threats have reportedly been made against some people who
provided testimony to the Haitian National Truth and Justice Commission which
presented its report in February 1996. There has been no serious follow-up to the
commission's report, again leaving those who testified to it defenseless and open to
reprisals from those identified by the report as being responsible for human rights
violations. Amnesty International welcomed the announcement by President Preval
in September 1991 that a follow-up committee was to be established, albeit belat-
edly. However, so far it has not received any concrete evidence that such a commit-
tee was created or that there has been any other follow-up to the Truth commis-
While not underestimating the enormity of the task in establishing a brand new
police force in Haiti, Amnesty International is concerned by the human rights record
so far. It welcomes the efforts of the Inspector General of Police to identify and re-
move those responsible[e for human rights violations. However, few if any of them
have been brought to trial and serious violations are continuing. There have been
reports of torture and ill-treatment by police, in some cases resulting in death.
Shootings by police, in some instances fatal, have also been reported in cir-
cumstances suggesting excessive use of force or extrajudicial execution. Frustration
with the inadequacies of the justice system have been blamed for at least some of
the abuses committed by the police, some of whom are said to have resorted to tor-
ture or killing because they do not trust the judicial system to deliver justice. For
apparently similar reasons, there appears to have been a recent resurgence of inci-
dents where the general population has resorted to taking the law into their own
hands and attacked or killed suspected criminals themselves. As a result of continu-
ing concern on the part of the international community regarding the human rights
record of the Haitian National Police and its ability to ensure law and order, the
UN Security Council voted in November to replace the UN Transitional Mission in
Haiti (UNTMIH), whose mandate ended on 30 November 1997, with the UN Police
Mission in Haiti (MIPONUH). This will be a 300-strong force whose task is to pro-
vide assistance, to train and monitor the Haitian National Police, and to help with
their day-to-day work but not in patrolling activities.
Amnesty International's conclusion is that anyone returning to Haiti cannot be as-
sured that they will be protected by the existing Haitian justice system from former
officials who occasioned their flight. Given the concerns raised above such assur-
ances would appear to fall far short of what would guarantee safe return. Any blan-
ket assessment that the change in government can allow all who fled the country
to return without fear or harm is therefore incorrect in our view.
By changing the status of Haitians identified as having a credible fear of persecu-
tion, a practical effect of the Haitian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act (S. 1504)
would be to prevent the repatriation of anyone to a potentially perilous and risky
situation. Amnesty International USA believes that such legislation would be a posi-
tive proposal and represents one way of helping to guarantee that no one would be
returned to a country where serious human rights concerns remain.
Senator ABRAHAM. Miss Sa, thank you.
You were searching for the "in conclusion" paragraph, and hope-
fully you found it. [Laughter.]
That has happened to me on numerous occasions.
Before we hear from Miss Little, I also have been presented with
a statement on behalf of Congressman Alcee Hastings to be entered
into the record, which we will as well.
[The prepared statement of Representative Hastings was not
available at presstime.]
Senator ABRAHAM. Miss Little, I apologize to you and to everyone
else because of our time constraints. We will now turn to you.
STATEMENT OF CHERYL LITTLE
Ms. LITTLE. Senator Abraham, I want to begin by thanking you
for your demonstrated concern about the Haitians and other immi-
grant groups in the United States. Thank you also for inviting me
It has been suggested that Haitians don't deserve the same per-
manent legal resident status that Congress recently afforded
Central Americans and other groups because Haitians have been
treated better than immigrants from nearly every other country.
Unfortunately, this is not true.
We have a responsibility to look at the facts in evaluating the
claim that Haitians don't need protective legislation. In this con-
text, I would like to discuss the reasons why Haitians cannot rely
on the asylum process to resolve their immigration status and the
history of discrimination against Haitians in the immigration proc-
First, the asylum process in the United States. Despite well-doc-
umented political oppression in Haiti, Haitians have historically
been granted asylum at a very low rate. Between June 1983 and
March 1991, only 1.8 percent of Haitian asylum applicants were
granted asylum by the INS. Among nationalities submitting the
largest number of asylum applications, this was the lowest ap-
Despite the bloody outcome of the aborted election in Haiti in
1987, not a single Haitian was granted asylum that year by the
INS. Between 1986 and 1991, only 28 Haitians were granted asy-
Given the grave political situation in Haiti following the 1991
ouster of President Aristide, the number of Haitians granted asy-
lum after that was alarmingly low. The approval rates remained
far below the approval rates for other nationalities.
The 11,000 Haitians screened into the United States from Guan-
tanamo after INS officials found they had a credible fear of perse-
cution following the 1991 coup are in real danger of being denied
asylum. Many have already been denied such relief. Earlier this
month, the Miami asylum office director stated that the current ap-
proval rate for Haitian applicants is less than 15 percent.
Historically, the INS has relied on State Department opinion let-
ters and reports which minimized the extent of political oppression
in Haiti. The INS has taken an unreasonably optimistic view of the
political situation there, and has prematurely concluded that coun-
try conditions in Haiti have changed to such an extent that asylum
is not warranted. This view is sharply contradicted, as you just
heard, by recent letters from Amnesty International and also by a
letter from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
Haitians outside the United States who wish to apply for refugee
status or are trying to reach the United States to apply face even
greater obstacles. Only in 1992 did the United States begin to proc-
ess refugee applications in Haiti for admission to the United
States. But even that process was fundamentally flawed and the
approval rates for Haitian refugees were dramatically lower than
those for all other nationalities. Refugee processing in Haiti was
dropped at the end of 1994, barely months after President Aristide
returned to Haiti.
Additionally, Haitians attempting to flee Haiti and seek asylum
are not permitted to reach the United States. In September 1981,
the Reagan Administration established a program to interdict Hai-
tian asylum seekers arriving by boat. While the 1981 agreement
clearly specified that bona fide refugees were not to be returned to
Haiti, only 28 of the 23,000 Haitians intercepted in the following
decade were deemed by the INS qualified to apply for asylum in
the United States.
Shortly after the 1991 coup, a lawsuit was filed challenging the
repatriation of Haitians without any meaningful consideration of
their asylum claims. The 10,000-plus interdicted Guantanamo Hai-
tians who were screened in in 1991 and 1992 were only allowed to
come to the United States after a Federal judge issued a temporary
injunction prohibiting their forcible return.
INS asylum officers in Guantanamo found that this group had a
credible fear of persecution, but were under heavy pressure to de-
crease the number of Haitians screened in. Many more Haitians
were forcibly returned and screened in as a result.
Following the Supreme Court decision in 1992, Haitians inter-
dicted at sea were repatriated without any investigation into the
likelihood of their persecution in Haiti. Amnesty International and
the UNHCR condemned the forced return and said they knew of
several cases in which asylum seekers returned to Haiti and were
persecuted upon their return.
In 1994, President Clinton permitted intercepted Haitians to be
taken to Guantanamo rather than forcibly repatriated. According to
U.S. Government officials, Guantanamo's facilities at peak times
during 1994-95 held over 32,000 Cubans and close to 22,000 Hai-
tians. While the United States Government paroled into the United
States virtually all of Guantanamo's Cuban refugees, it forcibly re-
turned to Haiti almost all of Guantanamo's Haitian refugees.
Among these were 356 children who arrived there unaccom-
panied by an adult, many of whom had witnessed close family
members being murdered by Haiti's paramilitary forces.
In its 1996 annual report, the Inter-American Commission on
Human Rights, Organization of American States, concluded that
the U.S.'s interdiction and repatriation policy toward Haitians vio-
lated the following provisions of the American Declaration of
Rights and Duties of Man: the right to life, the right to liberty, the
right to security of the person, the right to equality before the law,
the right to resort to the courts, and the right to seek and receive
Sadly, Haitians have been forced to return to the courts in at-
tempting to put an end to discriminatory treatment. In lawsuit
after lawsuit filed since the early 1980's, Federal courts have criti-
cized INS's treatment of Haitian asylum seekers. Courts have in-
validated and condemned a special Haitian program designed spe-
cifically to adjudicate and to deny, as quickly as possible, the asy-
lum claims of Haitians, the systematic detention of Haitians, the
transfer of Haitians to remote and hostile locations where trans-
lators and attorneys were not available, the INS policy in conduct-
ing mass exclusion hearings behind closed doors and denying Hai-
tians access to their attorneys, and a blatant pattern of discrimina-
tion and denial of constitutional rights.
In conclusion, the history of the U.S. Government's treatment of
Haitians gives no cause to believe that Haitians should pin their
hopes on asylum processing. That is why a grant of residence
under proposed legislation is so critical and why Haitians should
be granted treatment equal to Nicaraguans and Cubans under the
recently passed legislation.
Thank you very much. I also have a longer statement for the
[The prepared statement of Ms. Little follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF CHERYL LITTLE
I want to thank you, Senator Abraham, for your demonstrated concern about the
Haitians and other immigrant groups in the United States. Thank you also for invit-
ing me to testify.
I am the Executive Director of the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center, a non-
profit organization with 17 attorneys and 4 offices. FIAC provides free legal services
to immigrants of all nationalities, including many Haitians. Prior to this, I coordi-
nated work on Haitian asylum cases in South Florida for Florida Rural Legal Serv-
ices. Before that, I was the Directing Attorney at the Haitian Refugee Center. I also
taught an Immigration Workshop this semester at the University of Miami Law
It has been suggested that Haitians don't deserve the same permanent legal resi-
dent status that Congress recently afforded Central Americans and other groups be-
cause Haitians have been treated better than immigrants from nearly every other
country. Unfortunately, this is not true.
We have a responsibility to look at the facts in evaluating the claim that Haitians
don't need protective legislation. In this context, I would like to discuss the reasons
why Haitians cannot rely on the asylum process to resolve their immigration status
and the history of discrimination against Haitians in the immigration process.
ASYLUM PROCESS IN THE UNITED STATES
Despite well documented political oppression in Haiti, Haitians have historically
been granted asylum at a very low rate. Between June 1983 and March 1991, only
1.8 percent of Haitian applicants were granted asylum by the INS. Among nationali-
ties submitting the largest number of asylum applications, this was the lowest ap-
proval rate. For example, the approval rate during that period for China was 69.0
percent and for the former Soviet Union, 74.5 percent. The overall approval rate for
all applicants was 23.6 percent.
Despite the bloody outcome of the aborted election in Haiti in 1987 not a single
Haitian was granted asylum that year by the INS. Between 1986 and 1991, only
28 Haitians were granted asylum. In 1986, 5 Haitians were granted asylum; in
1988, 8; in 1989, 11; in 1990, 3; and in 1991, 1. These figures are generous, since
many other Haitians who would have applied for asylum did not do so because the
odds were so great against their claims being fairly considered.
Even when approval rates for Haitians increased after reform of the asylum sys-
tem in the early 1990's and after the coup d'etat ousting President Aristide, they
remained far below the approval rates for other nationalities. For example, the 30.6
percent approval rate for Haitians in 1992 still lagged far behind the approval rate
for Chinese applicants (84.8 percent) and applicants from the former Soviet Union
Given the grave political situation in Haiti following the 1991 ouster of President
Aristide, the number of Haitians granted asylum in the aftermath of the coup was
alarmingly low. In 1992, 120 Haitians were granted asylum by the INS; in 1993,
636; in 1994, 1060; in 1995, 749; and in 1996, 1,491. Moreover, any meaningful in-
crease in the approval rate was temporary. On December 5, 1997 the Miami Asylum
Office Director stated that the current approval rate for Haitian applicants is less
than 15 percent.
The 11,000 Haitians screened into the U.S. from Guantanamo after INS officials
found they had a credible fear of persecution following the 1991 coup d'etat have
been, and continue to be, in real danger of being denied asylum. Preliminary assess-
ments by asylum officers in Miami recommended grants of asylum in 33 out of the
first 43 of these cases. However, in a May 26, 1992 memorandum to the Associate
Deputy Attorney General, the Director and Assistant Director of the Asylum Policy
and Review Unit ("APRU") in Washington disagreed with 18 of the recommenda-
tions to approve, but with only one recommendation to deny. They also expressed
concern that the grant rate was "higher than expected." Special incentives were
given to asylum officers to deny these cases, specifying that "INS could be encour-
aged to [count] a completed denial as a double case completion and a com-
pleted grant as a single case completion for purposes of officer evaluation."
Indeed, even before asylum officers had interviewed many of the screened-in ap-
plicants after their arrival in the U.S., the INS Deputy Commissioner remarked in
January, 1992 that it was expected that 90 percent of these cases would be denied.
A 1992 Harvard Law School report on the asylum process expressed concern that
"special foreign policy pressures' had been influencing treatment of these cases.
Many Haitians screened in from Guantanamo, who clearly were deserving of asy-
lum, have been denied such relief. For example, one young woman who, on account
of her political activity, was beaten and repeatedly raped by a member of the Hai-
tian military following the 1991 coup d'etat was nonetheless denied asylum.
Historically, State Department opinion letters and reports relied upon by the INS
have minimized the extent of political oppression in Haiti and taken an unreason-
ably optimistic view of the political situation there. The INS has relied upon the
State Department reports on Haiti even when they are contradicted by human
rights organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. Like-
wise, the INS has prematurely concluded that country conditions in Haiti have
changed to such an extent that asylum should now be denied, even for people who
have suffered past persecution, on the basis of State Department reports. The INS
has also taken a narrow and legally improper view of the circumstances that war-
rant the grant of asylum to victims of past persecution by not taking into account
the humanitarian concerns that warrant a grant of asylum even if country condi-
tions have changed.
Attorneys who represent asylum applicants of different nationalities are familiar
with the difference in treatment accorded to Haitians compared to applicants from
communist countries. Relatively mild mistreatment of Cubans in their homeland, for
example, may result in a grant of asylum while gross mistreatment of Haitians does
ASYLUM SEEKERS AND REFUGEE PROCESSING OUTSIDE THE UNITED STATES
Haitians outside the U.S. who wish to apply for refugee status or are trying to
reach the U.S. to apply for asylum face even greater obstacles.
From 1981 to 1989, over 99 percent of refugees admitted to the U.S. were from
communist countries. When also taking into account refugees from Iran and Iraq
during that period, the number reaches 99.9 percent. Virtually all, if not all, of those
admitted as refugees from the Caribbean were Cuban.
Only in 1992 did the U.S. begin to process refugee applications in Haiti for admis-
sion to the U.S. But even that process was flawed, as Haitian refugee applicants
were required to openly approach the U.S. embassy in Port-au-Prince, thereby put-
ting their lives in jeopardy. Even after sites outside the capital were opened, people
in rural areas typically had no way to get there to apply. In any event, few people
qualified because the threshold for approval was so high. The approval rates for
Haitians were dramatically lower than those for all other nationalities. Refugee
processing in Haiti was dropped at the end of 1994, barely months after President
Aristide returned to Haiti.
Additionally, Haitians attempting to flee Haiti and seek asylum are not permitted
to reach the U.S. In September, 1981, the Reagan Administration reacted to the mi-
gration of Haitian asylum seekers arriving in boats by establishing a program to
interdict them. The Reagan Administration determined that the amount of undocu-
mented Haitians coming to the U.S. had "threatened the welfare and safety of com-
munities," despite the fact that Haitians comprised less than two percent of the un-
documented population of the U.S. at that time.
While the 1981 agreement clearly specified that bona fide refugees were not to
be returned to Haiti, INS determined that only twenty-eight of the 23,000 Haitians
intercepted in the decade following the program's inception were qualified to apply
for asylum in the U.S. Twenty of these were brought to the U.S. after INS instituted
several changes in the pre-screening interdiction process, which took affect March
1, 1991, after President Aristide took power.
Shortly after the 1991 coup d'etat, a lawsuit was filed challenging the repatriation
of Haitians without any meaningful consideration of their asylum claims. The inter-
dicted Guantanamo Haitians who were "screened-in" in 1991 and 1992 were only
allowed to come to the U.S. after a federal judge issued a temporary injunction pro-
hibiting their forcible return. And thousands more were forcibly returned. INS con-
ducted 36,596 screening interviews at Guantanamo between October 1991-June
1992 and "screened in" 10,319 Haitians, only 28 percent. Several interpreters at
Guantanamo provided sworn statements detailing the heavy pressure placed on asy-
lum officers by the U.S. Department of State to decrease the number of Haitians
In 1992 the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the U.S.'s argument that
Haitians had no legally enforceable rights in the U.S. because they were outside
U.S. territory, even though this was because the U.S. prevented Haitians from free-
ly reaching the continental U.S. In a brief two sentence order issued without com-
ment on January 31, 1992, the Supreme Court voted to permit repatriations and
shortly thereafter President Bush issued an Executive Order from Kennebunkport,
Maine, permitting INS to -epatriate Haitians interdicted at sea without any inves-
tigation into the likelihood of their persecution in Haiti ("Kennebunkport Order").
Amnesty International expressed outrage at the forced returns. In a January 1992
report, Amnesty International said it had received reports of grave human rights
violations after the coup d'etat. Amnesty stated they knew of "several cases in the
past years where asylum-seekers who were refused asylum in the USA and returned
to Haiti were imprisoned and in some cases ill-treated on their return."
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees ("UNHCR") similarly con-
demned the repatriations, expressing fear that those returned would be exposed to
real danger. Just before the Supreme Court decision allowing repatriations to con-
tinue, UNHCR confirmed that dozens of Haitian refugees returned to Haiti due to
faulty procedures were persecuted upon their return and forced to flee a second
time. The UNHCR said that they and U.S. government officials had documents de-
tailing the harassment, beating, torture, and murder of returned Haitians for the
"crime" of having fled. After the UNHCR publicly confirmed that they had evidence
of returnees being persecuted, they were informed they could no longer conduct
interviews of the Haitians at Guantanamo without a military presence. Even Hai-
tians who had been "screened in" by INS officials were erroneously repatriated, in-
cluding at least 38 unaccompanied children and a sixteen year old girl, Marie Zette,
who was killed in her bed by Ton ton Macoutes the first night after her forced re-
In 1994, after mounting pressure from the Congressional Black Caucus and other
groups, President Clinton permitted intercepted Haitians to be taken to Guanta-
namo rather than forcibly repatriated. According to U.S. Government officials,
Guantanamo's facilities at peak times during 1994-95 held as many as 32,362 Cu-
bans and 21,638 Haitians. While the U.S. Government paroled into the U.S. vir-
tually all of Guantanamo's Cuban refugees, it forcibly returned to Haiti almost all
of Guantanamo's Haitian refugees.
Among Guantanamo's Haitian refugees were 356 children who arrived there unac-
companied by an adult. Most of these children had witnessed close family members
being murdered by Haiti's paramilitary forces, and some of them had barely escaped
Haiti with their own lives. Conditions for the children in the camps were deplorable,
and some attempted suicide. By June 1995 the majority of these children had been
forcibly repatriated. Many are living on the streets in Haiti today and at great risk.
Indeed, at least one was raped following her forcible return.
In its 1996 Annual Report, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Or-
ganization of American States, concluded that the U.S.'s interdiction and repatri-
ation policy toward Haitians violated the following provisions of the American Dec-
laration of the Rights and Duties of Man: the right to life, the right to liberty, the
right to security of the person, the right to equality before the law, the right to re-
sort to the courts, and the right to seek and receive asylum.
Although in the past few years the U.S. has also interdicted Cubans trying to
come to the U.S. by boat and returned them to Cuba, Cubans have immigration op-
tions open to them that are denied to Haitians. They may apply for refugee status
in Cuba. In addition, under an agreement with the Cuban government, at least
20,000 visas must be given to Cubans to come to the U.S. each year. And Cubans
who are admitted or paroled into the U.S. may apply for permanent resident status
after one year under the Cuban Adjustment Act even if they came to the U.S. for
purely economic reasons. None of these options is open to Haitians.
HISTORY OF DISCRIMINATION
Haitians were forced to turn to the courts in attempting to put an end to the dis-
criminatory practices directed against them. In the early 1980's, a landmark suit
was filed on behalf of over 4,000 Haitians requesting political asylum. The INS,
through procedures in effect at that time, had denied all 4,000 applications. The
court found that U.S. government agencies had set up a "Haitian Program" designed
specifically to adjudicate, and to deny, as quickly as possible the asylum claims of
Haitians, a program which "in its planning and executing [was] offensive to every
notion of constitutional due process and equal protection."
The court concluded that the backlog of 6,000-7,000 Haitian cases-which the
government had argued constituted the reasons for instigating the Haitian Pro-
gram-was not a result of a massive influx of Haitians to South Florida over a short
period, but rather was primarily attributable to a slow trickle of Haitians over a
ten-year period and to the confessed inaction of the INS in dealing with these cases.
Moreover, the court concluded that the INS was engaging in scare tactics, noting
that the INS Deputy Commissioner encouraged government attorneys to point out
"The dimensions of the Haitian threat" and called the Haitian cases a threat to the
community's social and economic well-being. The court also found that the discrimi-
natory treatment of Haitians was nothing new, but rather that it was part of a pat-
tern of discrimination which began in 1964.
Despite the federal court's absolute condemnation of the U.S. government's Hai-
tian policy, Haitians continued to be dismissed solely as economic migrants and the
government continued to demonstrate its bias against the Haitians through im-
proper screening and arbitrary detention. In late May 1981, INS began to systemati-
cally detain Haitians entering the U.S. This was a fundamental change from the
established policy of detaining only those persons deemed likely to abscond or pose
a threat to national security.
In July of 1981, the State of Florida brought an action against the Federal Gov-
ernment due to the overcrowded conditions at Krome Service Processing Center, the
INS detention facility in Miami. During litigation, the government promised that ef-
forts would be made to keep the population at Krome at or under 1,000 people. In
order to abide by this representation, the INS transferred Haitians out of Krome
whenever the population exceeded 1,000.
Advocates for the Haitian refugees again turned to the courts for help, and again
the courts noted the INS's callous disregard for the rights of Haitian refugees. A
federal court judge in 1982 characterized the transfers as "a human shell game in
which the arbitrary Immigration and Naturalization Service has sought to scatter
[Haitians] to locations that are all in desolate, remote, hostile, culturally di-
verse areas, containing a paucity of available legal support and few, if any, Creole
A successor judge in the same case subsequently ruled that the Haitians were
"impacted to a greater degree by the new detention policy than aliens of any other
nationality *." Unlike other aliens, the Haitians were subject to mass exclusion
hearings behind closed doors, improperly denied access to their attorneys and de-
ported in a manner INS itself admitted was faulty. The detention policy was found
to be invalid and the court ordered the release of over 1,000 Haitians, provided they
were deemed neither a security risk nor likely to abscond.
The government appealed the district court decision and in a historic decision, an
Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals panel found that statistical evidence disclosed
that the federal government had engaged in a "stark pattern" of discrimination
against the Haitian asylum seekers. This was the first time in the history of Amer-
ican law that the federal government was found to discriminate on the basis of race
or national origin under the Constitution in a non-employment context. Although
the Court of Appeals en banc later vacated the decision on the grounds that Hai-
tians had no constitutional rights, they never disturbed the factual findings of the
Despite the court's order that INS stop illegal transfers of Haitians to remote
areas of the country, such transfers continued. In May 1989, a federal judge in
Miami blocked the forced transfer of dozens of Haitians, this time from Krome to
Louisiana and Texas during a "lock down" of the INS facility. The judge found that
the circumstances under which the transfers took place violated the Haitians' due
Haitians have also documented their mistreatment at Krome, which led to a 1990
FBI and Justice Department investigation into allegations of physical and sexual
abuse by Krome officers. While Justice Department officials claimed in March 1991
that the investigation was completed, to date no findings have been made public.
In late September 1992, Amnesty International USA criticized the lengthy deten-
tion of Haitians at Krome, claiming that governments should reveal legitimate
grounds for any detention of asylum seekers. During the summer of 1992, Florida
Senators Bob Graham and Connie Mack unsuccessfully pushed for legislation to
limit detention at Krome to ninety days.
Haitians at Krome have engaged in serious hunger strikes to protest their treat-
ment. One of these occurred in January 1993 following the arrival of fifty-two Cu-
bans who had "commandeered" a Cuban commuter flight from Havana to Varadero,
Cuba, diverting it to Miami. All the Cubans were released from Krome within forty-
eight hours, while the Haitians remained in custody. To the Haitians this was a
painful reminder of the double standard of treatment.
Haitians attempting to come here legally have also been discriminated against.
In a decision subsequently upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, a federal district
court judge ruled that Haitians who sought to legalize their status under the farm
worker amnesty program of 1986 were denied a "meaningful opportunity to be
heard." In addition, based on the largest, most ambitious fraud investigation ever
undertaken by the INS, the U.S. government charged mostly poor, uneducated Hai-
tian farm workers with committing fraud in their applications for residency under
the amnesty program ("Operation Cucumber"). Federal judges hearing criminal
charges against the Haitians criticized the government for bringing the charges, and
the government was forced to dismiss all of the cases.
Haitian children have not been spared the discriminatory policy directed against
Haitians attempting to come to the U.S. legally. Haitian children eligible for family-
sponsored visas were stranded in Haiti for months following the 1991 coup d'etat,
while their applications were subjected to heightened scrutiny imposed on no other
nationality. This group included children who had lived with their parents in the
U.S. for years, attended school here, and had little familiarity with Haiti or its lan-
In conclusion, the history of the U.S. government's treatment of Haitians gives no
cause to believe that Haitians should pin their hopes on asylum processing. That
is why a grant of residence under proposed legislation is so critical.
Haiti today is a fragile democracy at best. In a June 1997 letter, Amnesty Inter-
national officials concluded that "[A]ny blanket assessment that the change in gov-
ernment can allow all who fled the country to return without fear of harm is *
incorrect in our view." The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees simi-
larly concluded in August 1997 that "the weakness of Haiti's institutions, inherited
from decades of political repression, undermine the capacity of the State to meet the
basic obligation to protect its citizens *. This office believes it would be inappro-
priate to conclude generally that Haitian asylum seekers would no longer face perse-
cution upon return to Haiti."
Haitians who fled oppression have for years lived, worked, built businesses, paid
taxes, and raised children born here. Not only will their forced return to Haiti dis-
rupt their lives, but it will also have a devastating effect on Haiti's fragile economy.
Haitian President Rene Preval has asked that Haitians be given equal treatment
with the Nicaraguans, and that the United States recognize the current economic
and political situation in Haiti. Congress and the White House have taken similar
considerations into account in supporting protective legislation for Central Ameri-
We believe that similarly situated groups should be treated equally. Nicaraguans
and Cubans who arrived in the United States as of December 1995 will be given
residence under the new law. Haitians deserve no less than that.
AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL USA,
San Francisco, CA, June 3, 1997.
Re the current situation in Haiti
Ms. CHERYL LITTLE,
Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center, Inc.,
DEAR MS. LITTLE: With respect to your inquiry about the current situation in
Haiti, the following is information from Amnesty International's researcher in Lon-
don. Conditions in Haiti are still far from being stable. There appears to have been
little progress in establishing an effective justice system. The question of impunity
for past and current human rights abuses has not been seriously addressed. Some
of the perpetrators of such abuses are still at large and in some cases still wield
power in local communities, though in general they do not have formal positions of
responsibility. Many of these still have access to arms, as the attempts at disarming
some of the armed groups in Haiti following the return of President Aristide were
not wholly successful.
In addition, concern remains that the new police force may not be up to the job
of ensuring law and order once the UN forces leave. Added to this situation is grow-
ing popular discontent over the economic situation and serious splits in the Lavalas
movement. Both of these factors have weakened government authority.
Our conclusion is that anyone returning to Haiti cannot be assured that they will
be protected by the existing Haitian justice system from former officials who occa-
sioned their flight. Any blanket assessment that the change in government can
allow all who fled the country to return without fear of harm is therefore incorrect
in our view.
I hope this information is useful for the analysis of political asylum claims. Should
any further information be necessary, please feel free to contact our office.
NICHOLAS J. RIZZA,
National Refugee Coordinator, Amnesty International USA.
Senator ABRAHAM. Miss Little, I want to assure you it will be in-
cluded. I compliment you on having gotten so much of what you
have brought here today into the record as it was.
In light of the time, let me explain how I'm going to proceed
here. First of all, the way hearings operate, we have both an op-
tional question period during the hearing itself, but also members
of the subcommittee are also empowered to submit written ques-
tions to panelists, which I will be doing to this panel.
Also, I would just extend to my colleagues who are here today,
if you would like to have questions directed at this panel, although
not members of the subcommittee, please just get them to me and
I will put them out under my name, so that we can build the record
that I know everybody is anxious to have us accomplish.
I have one or two questions I do want to ask here. I will make
them brief, in light of the time.
First, Mr. Rees, I just want to clarify for myself, the point you
made about parolees I think is a fairly important one here. That
is, in the absence of some type of specific legislation, parolees' fates
would be inevitably at great risk; is that correct?
Mr. REES. Ultimately, when you've been paroled into the country,
one of two things has to happen. You have to go back typically to
your home country, or you have to be able to adjust your status to
that of a lawful permanent resident.
Senator ABRAHAM. I mean, in the absence of an adjustment to
status option, which we have largely reduced in the 1996 bill.
Mr. REES. Well, some people can do it under other laws. Some-
times you have a relative here and gradually you become eligible
for that petition. Sometimes you can get asylum. But what happens
to the people when country conditions have changed somewhat,
they have built their lives here in this country, they are now prod-
ucts of our society. So Congress has, in almost every instance, cho-
sen to enact special legislation for large groups of people like this.
Senator ABRAHAM. And would you be able to provide us in writ-
ten form, based on your experiences as General Counsel at INS, a
certain chronology of some of those previous actions?
Mr. REES. That is in my complete statement, which I was-
Senator ABRAHAM. I alluded to some of those provisions, and I
think Bishop Wenski mentioned some of them as well. But I think
it's very important for the record to reflect that. What we're trying
to establish here is not something that has never before happened
in American history. It's something which has frequently followed
situations where large numbers of people who have been paroled
in as a result of or in the wake of some type of action and-
Mr. REES. Senator, it's safe to say that that is the rule rather
than the exception, when we have paroled in large numbers of peo-
ple under country-specific programs. There has been subsequent
legislation to allow adjustment.
Senator ABRAHAM. Thank you.
Bishop Wenski, do you want to follow up on that?
Bishop WENSKI. In the absence of that, by having these parolees
here and not enabling any access to become residents and eventu-
ally citizens, what we have, in effect, is a new, legally sanctioned
underclass, because they can't become part of society and they can't
become citizens or exercise the options of citizens. The last time we
did that we called it Jim Crow and the United States hasn't recov-
ered from that yet. So it doesn't behoove us to start doing new
Senator ABRAHAM. And in your testimony-you sort of touched
on your own parish and your experiences here. Would it be fair to
characterize your experiences as one that would exude a vote a con-
fidence, that the contributions of Haitians to our community here
have been the kinds of positive contributions that we look to,
Bishop WENSKI. Sure. Again, when we look at the record of the
Haitians here in this community over the past 18 years, we see
that they have, indeed, when given the chance, contributed to the
development of this community.
I know people that I received on the shores in the late 1970's,
and I visited at Krome, that were detained in the 1980's, but now,
10 or 12 years later, they're homeowners. In the process of a rel-
atively short amount of time, they were able to realize what, for
most people, is the American dream. I think that says something
about their abilities to succeed in this society and to contribute to
Senator ABRAHAM. Thank you.
Miss Little, I know that you are familiar with the various screen-
ing processes that did take place at Guantanamo, in terms of what
refugees had to demonstrate in order to be paroled.
Would you, again for the purposes of our record, perhaps elabo-
rate on that briefly?
Ms. LITTLE. Yes. Well, prior to the lawsuit that was filed by the
Haitian Refugee Center, unfortunately the screening process was
quite pathetic. But after that, I believe that a very stringent proc-
ess was in place. There were trained asylum officers who had
knowledge about the ongoing country conditions in Haiti, who had
access to reports from the Government, reports from the ground.
They were asking the asylum applicants detailed questions to de-
termine their credibility, to determine the strength of their claims.
I believe there was supervisory review.
I think, given what I just described, there is no question that
those Haitians should have been granted refugee status. We were
all very painfully aware of the political situation in Haiti at that
Senator ABRAHAM. Would you like to comment further on that,
Mr. REES. Yes. I would like to say that, although I basically
agree with Miss Little, some of us within the Government before
that lawsuit was filed were working to try to make sure that that
process was a fair one. We certainly had some ups and downs and
there were some times, before and after the lawsuit, when frankly
it was not a fair process.
Ms. LITTLE. Yes, and I will recognize that certain officials of our
Government took the steps that needed to be taken to correct the
Senator ABRAHAM. Miss Sa, we all were, I think, greatly touched
by the testimony of our first two witnesses on this panel. I'm not
going to ask either of them any questions here. But I would like
to ask you, if you could, to comment for the record from the per-
spective of your organization.
If the ultimate result here was that nothing happened, and if as
a consequence of that people like our first two witnesses here
today, Miss Miclisse and Miss Robergeau, were required to go back
to Haiti, would you feel very confident that they could do that se-
curely and safely?
Ms. SA. Well, stories like Nestilia and Louiciana are, unfortu-
nately, not isolated incidents in Haiti's past. I think we would say
there are several factors that would seem to very clearly indicate
that Haitian refugees sent back could very well face reprisals by
perpetrators of human rights violations. In fact, these may be the
very same people that they fled from.
Some very specific examples of why this might be true is-some
examples I included, and some of which I couldn't include in my
oral statement-is that where there have been trials, clearly people
have been called as witnesses and people participating in those
trials have faced reprisals, not just in the instances of the few
trials that have come to play, but also when the Haitian National
Truth and Justice Commission was involved in hearing testimony,
some of the people who came there have also faced threats or other
kinds of reprisals. Also, in the pending trial of the Roboteau mas-
sacre, there is clear evidence that there are already problems, even
though the trial has not occurred.
So the unstable situation, fostered by the lack of an effective ju-
dicial system in the continuing community would clearly indicate
some grave concerns if the Haitians were repatriated.
Senator ABRAHAM. In short, you would not sleep well if you
thought these young ladies were to go back.
Ms. SA. Absolutely not, which is why Amnesty International was
very happy to come here today, to be able to provide some informa-
tion that would assure the Senators that it would be a good deci-
sion to seek some guarantees that-
Senator ABRAHAM. We appreciate your contribution.
Again, we have to-Bishop Wenski.
Bishop WENSKI. As in Archbishop Favalora's remarks, I would
point out that the very fact that the Preval government has re-
quested the OAS and UN civilian mission to Haiti to be extended
also is evidence that the Haitian Government, although democrat-
ically elected, at this point itself recognizes its own limitations and
weaknesses in being able to protect the rights of people like these
two young ladies.
Senator ABRAHAM. Thank you.
I again apologize that we've had some time limits on us today.
I want to thank everybody on this panel, but I especially want to
thank both of you for your courage and bravery and being willing
to talk about obviously very painful experiences in your families
and your own lives.
Where we go from here, for those of you in the audience who ob-
viously will be interested in what the next steps are, a hearing is
the beginning of the process of legislation. If hearings don't occur,
then bills don't begin to move forward. So as I indicated in my
opening statement, my goal was to get this hearing underway early
before we began the second session of the 105th Congress, so that
we could hit the ground running when we go back in January in
the Immigration Subcommittee.
I have not yet decided it will be necessary to hold an additional
hearing in Washington in order to give colleagues a chance to par-
ticipate. I am a cosponsor of Senator Graham's legislation, so obvi-
ously that reflects my views on the matter. But in matters like
this, I would wish to consult with the lead sponsors of bills as well
as other colleagues to determine the timeframe that makes the
most sense to move forward.
I think part of the goal ought to be one of education. I think as
people become more familiar, as hopefully today's hearing helps us
achieve some familiarity with the circumstances, they will recog-
nize why action on a legislative front makes sense.
I think the Administration's actions, which were alluded to here
today by Congressman Conyers, gives a certain timeframe now, a
little more flexibility for the legislative branch to act. We will do
our very best on the Senate side to do so, and by starting early,
we now have some time on our side.
In closing I would summarize by what I said initially. I don't
think, when laws are applied retroactively, that we should make
distinctions based on nations of origin or on race or any other
basis. I think similarly situated groups of people are treated dif-
ferently under those circumstances and we should act to correct it.
So I want to thank the audience who is here today for expressing
your interest in this issue. Your support for legislative action is one
of the reasons we're here, so you should feel that your voice is well
represented, as I have indicated, by a number of representatives
from both the House and Senate from this part of the world who,
on your behalf, have been making your voice very, very clearly
With the goal of moving legislation forward, we will conclude to-
day's hearing. We look forward to working with the panel witnesses
and all interested parties to do the best job we can to try to bring
this to a positive conclusion. Thank you very much.
[Whereupon, at 12:20 a.m., the subcommittee adjourned.]
ADDITIONAL SUBMISSIONS FOR THE RECORD
THE WHITE HOUSE,
Washington, December 19, 1997.
Hon. SPENCER ABRAHAM,
Chairman, Immigration Subcommittee,
Committee on the Judiciary,
DEAR MR. CHAIRMAN: In November, during the final days of the first session of
the 105th Congress, I urged Congress to extend to Haitian immigrants protections
similar to those provided Central Americans in the Nicaraguan Adjustment and
Central American Relief Act. Although I was disappointed when Congress failed to
include Haitians in that measure, I was greatly encouraged when separate biparti-
san legislation providing relief for Haitian immigrants was introduced in both the
House and the Senate prior to the Congressional recess. Those three bills, authored
by Senator Graham, Congressman Conyers and Congresswoman Meek, recognize
that Haitians have made important contributions to our communities and that a
resolution of their status is critical to helping Haiti establish a strong and lasting
More important than the introduction of these bills is quick Congressional enact-
ment of legislation addressing this issue. The hearing you held this week, well be-
fore Congress is scheduled to reconvene, exemplifies a strong commitment to provid-
ing timely consideration of the Haitian relief bills and your desire to provide the
most appropriate and prompt relief for Haitian immigrants. Your continued leader-
ship is critical as we develop a bipartisan legislative remedy that will provide the
Haitians fair and equitable treatment under our immigration laws. I look forward
to working with you and your Congressional colleagues to achieve this goal.
Miami, FL, December 17,1997.
Hon. SPENCER ABRAHAM,
Chairman, U.S. Senate Immigration Subcommittee,
DEAR SENATOR ABRAHAM: By way of introduction, the undersigned is the Presi-
dent of the Honduran Unity, also the Public Relations Director of the "Fraternidad
Nicaraguense", an organization which was actively involved for the past 10 years
in the plight of the Nicaraguan exile community through both chambers of Con-
gress, the Administration, and the federal courts by filing a class action suit and
most recently helped obtained passage of the Nicaraguan Relief and Central Amer-
ican Relief Act ("NACARA").
The "Honduran Unity" likewise "Fraternidad Nicaraguense," have also pledged
our full support to Haitian refugees and has coined efforts to obtain passage of the
current pending bill sponsored by Congresswoman Carrie Meek which if approved
will provide them with a permanent residency. We wish to congratulate you person-
ally for your kind efforts and your initiative to hold a hearing to gather crucial testi-
mony from that community.
Our Honduran exile community as well as the Haitian community, unfortunately,
were not included in the provisions of the Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central
American Relief Act (NACARA). Although, Hondurans did not face a civil war, how-
ever were deeply affected by the direct and indirect impact of the civil wars of
neighboring countries such as Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala, which were
often fought in Honduran territory and affected most of Central America.
The members of the Honduran exile community, like our Haitian brothers and sis-
ters are hard-working, tax-payer and law-abiding people, were forced to leave their
country and were overlooked by NACARA even though as the Haitian people, were
victims of the Communism impact.
Over 30,000 Haitians were forced to flee their country during the years of unfortu-
nate political turmoil and instability in their homeland. During these years the Hai-
tian exiles have become an extraordinary community. They have worked very hard,
built businesses, paid taxes, and raised children born in the United States, some
have already become American Citizens. Not only will their forced return to Haiti
disrupt their lives by unfairly separate families, it will also have a devastating effect
on Haiti's fragile economy and we will not be able to achieve one of our foreign poli-
cies to strengthen that emerging Democracy.
We strongly feel that the United States has a moral debt with the Haitian and
Honduran community that is meritorious of everyone's immediate attention and ac-
tion particularly from your Subcommittee which we certainly applaud your noble
gesture to consider resolving this most unfortunate and unfair situation by initiat-
ing an imperative hearing.
We kindly ask your support for the Haitian Exile Community by consider provid-
ing them with a very much needed permanent residency, a humanitarian solution
to their rightful plight which will enable to prevent an injustice from happening to
these similar situated exile communities that need equal protection and fair oppor-
The Honduran exile community held last Monday in Miami a peaceful and civic
rally in front of the Immigration and Naturalization Service office building to pro-
test against unfair deportations and to request that Hondurans and Haitians be
granted a permanent residency status, and in support of the Sanabria and Jean
families whose family members were recently arbitrarily deported by the I.N.S. to
Nicaragua and Haiti. We will also join today our Haitian brothers and sisters out-
side the Stephen Clark Building and will continue to demonstrate until we reach
our common objective of a just and fair treatment for our communities as we are
all part of this great nation "America."
We thank you in advance for the opportunity given to render a heartfelt testimony
on behalf of the Haitian and Honduran exile community.
President, Honduran Unity.
PREPARED STATEMENT OF THE UNITED NATIONS HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR REFUGEES
CURRENT COUNTRY CONDITIONS IN HAITI
UNHCR's approach to changed country conditions and the cessation clauses
UNHCR's Approach to Changed Country Conditions and the Cessation Clauses
Paragraph 42 of UNHCR's Handbook on Procedures and Criteria for Determining
Refugee Status (1980) (the Handbook) provides that knowledge of conditions in an
asylum applicant's country of origin is an important element in assessing the credi-
bility and well-foundedness of a claim. Paragraph 45 of the Handbook provides that
although it may be assumed that a person has a well-founded fear of persecution
if he or she has already been persecuted the word "fear" also refers to those who
wish to avoid a situation entailing the risk old persecution. Knowledge of changed
country conditions is important in assessing the risk of persecution if an applicant
is returned to his or her country of origin. International protection principles with
respect to the importance of changed country conditions are clearly articulated in
the context of recognized refugees, but may be used as guidance in the refugee sta-
tus determination context.
When an applicant has been recognized as meeting the refugee definition, knowl-
edge of country conditions is central to determining whether, notwithstanding hav-
ing once met the refugee definition, he or she no longer needs international protec-
tion outside his or her country of origin. According to Article 1(C)(5) of the Conven-
tion, a person may cease to be a refugee if, inter alia the "circumstances in connec-
tion with which he has been recognized as a refugee have ceased to exist." Article
1(C)(5) further provides that "this paragraph shall not apply to a refugee who is
able to invoke compelling reasons arising out of previous persecution for refusing
to avail himself of the protection of the country of nationality."
The UNHCR Executive Committee, an intergovernmental group currently com-
prising 51 States, that advises UNHCR in the exercise of its protection mandate,
has adopted a conclusion on cessation of status stressing that, in construing the ces-
sation clauses relating to "ceased circumstances,"
States must carefully assess the fundamental character of the changes in the
country of nationality or origin, including the general human rights situation,
as well as the particular cause of fear of persecution, in order to make sure in
an objective and verifiable way that the situation which justified the granting
of refugee status has ceased to exist.
The Executive Committee further emphasizes that "the ceased circumstances ces-
sation clauses shall not apply to refugees who continue to have a well-founded fear
of persecution" and recommends that "States seriously consider an appropriate sta-
tus for persons who have compelling reasons arising out of previous persecution for
refusing to re-avail themselves of the protection of their country."
Conditions in Haiti and adjudication ofasylum applications in view ofthese conditions
Haiti has experienced improvements in its human rights situation with the res-
toration of President Aristide in October 1994, the election of President Rene Preval,
who was inaugurated on 7 February 1996, and significant efforts to dismantle the
former military structures. Nonetheless, we note that President Preval's 30 Novem-
ber 1996 letter to the Secretary General of the United Nations requesting the exten-
sion of the mandate of the OAS/UN International Civilian Mission to Haiti (Mission
Civile Internationale en Haiti (MICIVIH)) until 31 December 1997 states that the
presence of the MICIVIH is justified because the institutions responsible for ensur-
ing the rights of citizens are continuing to show signs of weakness which must be
This acknowledgment by the Haitian government of limitations on its capacity to
ensure the rights of its citizens is the most credible indicator of the inadvisability
of applying the "ceased circumstances" cessation clause. The Haitian government's
own frank assessment of its limitations is also substantiated by the U.S. Depart-
ment of State, which has reported that a significant number of serious human rights
abuses occurred in Haiti in 1996 and remained steady in frequency and severity
during the year.
Examples of existing problems are included in the 2 December 1996 report of the
United Nations Secretary-General, among them:
Incidents condemned by the Haitian Government as acts of destabilization and
rumors of a plot against the State;
Violations by State agents of the right to life and physical integrity; and
In the judicial domain, serious violations of legal and constitutional procedures,
as well as continued shortcomings in respect for due process.
According to the same report, difficult challenges lie ahead, including reinforcing
the authority of the State and reforming the justice system. Additionally, investiga-
tions into past human rights violations have not been progressing well.
As the Government of Haiti and the United Nations have acknowledged, the
weaknesses of Haiti's institutions, inherited from decades of political repression, un-
dermine the capacity of the State to meet the basic obligation to protect its citizens.
It is precisely this gap which has led to the development of parallel security forces,
such as voluntary police, and the current tense situation throughout the country.
Given the above information on the assessment of country conditions by the Gov-
ernment of Haiti and the United Nations, a viable internal flight alternative or the
possibility for Haitians to find safety in other parts of the country has not been es-
While the efforts of the Government of Haiti and the international community to
institute reforms are laudable, this Office believes that it would be inappropriate
to conclude generally that Haitian asylum-seekers would no longer face persecution
upon return to Haiti. In light of these indications, asylum applications from Hai-
tians should continue to be considered on their individual merits, taking into ac-
count any claims of past persecution, current country conditions, and the potential
for continued human rights abuses.
1 The U.S. is a signatory to the 1967 Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees
(the Protocol). Article 1 of the Protocol provides, inter alia, that the States Parties
to the present Protocol undertake to apply Articles 2 to 34 inclusive of the Conven-
tion to refugees and modifies the definition of refugee in Article 1 of the Convention
by removing the 1951 dateline.
2 Executive Committee Conclusion No. 69 on Cessation of Status (XLIII), U.N.
Doc. A/AC.96/804 (1992), para. (a).
3 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1996,
(Haiti) (1997) at 475.