Haitians in South Florida Rally To Demand End To Deportations

By Macollvie Jean-François
Flyer for Saturday's march.

Flyer for Saturday's march.

MIAMI  — Tomorrow, South Florida activists expect 2,000 to 4,000 supporters to attend a rally seeking Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Haitians and to urge lawmakers to put a stop to deportations of undocumented Haitian immigrants. The rally is scheduled to take place in front of the Broward Transitional Center in Pompano Beach, a few miles north of Fort Lauderdale.

[UPDATE: After the rally, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported: “Rapper Wyclef Jean made a surprise appearance at a rally in Pompano Beach on Saturday, where about 250 people called for the U.S. government to stop deportations to Haiti.” See more here.]

The rally comes after news last week that 30,000 Haitians have been ordered to leave the U.S. after a short-lived halt in deportations had made many hopeful they would be granted temporary stays. The suspension of deportations followed a series of brutal storms that lashed Haiti last year. Now Haiti is blocking the deportations by not issuing travel documents to its citizens, saying the country just cannot take in more people at this time.

TPS for Haitians was expected to be a hot-button issue for the Obama Administration, and pro-immigrant advocates in the community said throughout the presidential campaign it would be their goal to make it a reality under the new administration.

Now, a little more than a month into Barack Obama’s presidency, the issue has become a litmus test of his loyalty to a group of immigrant voters who campaigned heavily for him.

“I was expecting right after Obama took office that he would do something,” said Bob Louis Jeune, head of the Haitian Citizens United Taskforce in West Palm Beach, and an organizer of Saturday’s rally. “But he never said anything. We get tired of sending letters and emails, and nobody said anything.”

Advocates fear that the Department of Homeland Security’s enforcement and border branches are rushing to execute policies instituted under the Bush Administration, before Obama’s people have a chance to review or redirect Bush-era mandates. (Just this week Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano ordered a review of the first work-site raid to take place under her watch, saying she had not been briefed on it beforehand.)

But with the news emerging of Immigration and Customs Enforcement seeking to deport 30,229 undocumented Haitians, and the Haitian government’s refusal to issue travel documents to the deportees, advocates see an opportunity to raise the issue — swiftly, and loudly.

Within days, a TPS petition that has been online for some time saw a spike in signatures, its monitors say. Hundreds of student volunteers and staffers at Haitian community groups and at partner organizations have called, e-mailed and written to the White House, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and other members of Congress.

Groups in Florida are also forming alliances with the local chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union and immigration attorneys to help win the release of from detention of undocumented Haitian immigrants, who they say are law-abiding workers who contribute to their communities.

Haitian radio, meanwhile, has broadcast warnings to be on the lookout for immigration enforcement activity, and called on people to come out on Saturday and to future rallies.

Activists, editorial writers and commentators –like Myriam Marquez at the Miami Herald and Felicia Persaud at CaribWorldNews— quickly penned articles urging the president and Congress to address the “ticking time-bomb” that the reinstated Haitian deportations have become.

That Haitian-American Patrick Gaspard, the White House political director who campaigned for Obama in Haitian enclaves, has been mum on the issue is especially troubling to many, as they had hoped he would have the president’s ear on such immediate concerns.

“We called him, he said he was in a meeting, and he said to send an e-mail,” Louis Jeune said. “We did talk to him and asked him to talk to Mr. Obama. We never heard from him.”

That silence has only spurred activists like Louis Jeune to take action.

“The same way Obama got elected –with the BlackBerry, by sending emails to different grassroots organizations– that’s what we’re going to do,” Louis Jeune said.

Not everyone is on board with the rallies, though. For one, there’s always the fear that showing up at these demonstrations might draw undue attention from immigration officials to one’s own undocumented status or that of relatives and loved ones. Some also want the matters of job creation, education and health care –the mainstream issues that spoke to the immigrant communities during the campaign– to be addressed first.

A multi-pronged effort must be established, if the community is to go beyond awareness and actually get policies favorable to undocumented Haitian immigrants drawn. That’s what Jocelyn McCalla, a development consultant and former executive of the once-prominent Haitian rights advocacy group NCHR, said. He argues that the current situation presents an opportunity for Haitians to come up with a “sensible proposal” to negotiate with the Administration.

“I say to the advocates: you can’t just cry foul,” he said. “You should have a regular lobby in Washington talking to everybody.  You should be making the statement that this [TPS] is in the best interests of the U.S. Forget about Haiti.”

* Macollvie Jean-François is a journalist based in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.


  1. HernandezUSA

    Illegal Aliens regardless of origins need to be deported.

    Without Enforcement of our laws we are rewarding criminal behavior.

    We need to keep up the ICE Raids as each raid frees up more jobs for Unemployed American families.

    We need the very Accurate and Free E-verify tool for all business owners and ALL employee to keep predatory business owners from hiring illegal aliens.

    We need the SAVE ACT to end chain migration.

    We do need Immigration Reform, but unlike the mess that the 1986 amnesty brought, we need Enforcement and lowering the caps for H1B Visa holders back 1986 levels to get more unemployed American families working again.

  2. AmericanPartiot

    America needs Comprehensive Immigration Law Enforcement, period. The U.S. cannot become the world’s employment office or the world’s hotel.

    We The People demand secured borders and ports, illegal immigration stopped, deportation of the illegal aliens already here and a much Lower number of those let in legally. Make the E-Verify mandatory and start jailing employers that hire illegal aliens.

    Illegals GO HOME! Go march for your rights in your own countries as you should be doing.

  3. Time for all illegal aliens to go home. We have enough of our own poor Americans and Mexico, Haiti, Guatemala, etc., need to take care of their own poor.

    Illegal is illegal, period!

  4. June

    I’ve had it up to here! Get every illegal alien out of this country. Our financial situation is precarious and we don’t need to be spending billions on criminals who don’t belong here. Stop all immigration until we recover. We pour money and aid into other nations, yet that doesn’t keep people home.

    Comment edited by Feet in 2 Worlds.

  5. proud american

    There is alot of immigrants that are here doing good things, not committing crimes and that are suffering because of these immigration laws. They are still people like you and me and deserve to be here. Yeah, there is immigrants that come here and do bad things, lets deport those people, not the ones that are here for a better life. Have a heart.

  6. Proud American Born Haitian

    Who are you to ask that all illegal immigrants be deported? Remember, only the native americans are truely home. We have all come from different lands to make this country the melting pot that it is. Deporting Haitians will not make it better for this country. We are one of the most hardworking, intelligent and resilient people to step foot in the US.

    Also, sending the criminals back to Haiti is not an option when the US system has corrupted them. Most haitians who become criminals usually have been through the education system here and have lost their traditional way of leaving.

    We Haitians are a product of the “Perl of the Antilleans”. We are a wonderful people that thrives when given the opportunity. If it was for us Americans putting our noses into other governments’ business, Haiti wouldn’t be in this state of shambles forcing its children out to come slave for a better life for their families.

    I love Haiti. Although I was born in the US, I grew up there(k-13) and its the best thing my parents ever did for me. I pray to God, that I can be back to the country that I still see as a Jewel despite it all.

  7. This is a very sensitive issue. I can honestly see both sides. Illegal immigration is undoubtedly out of control. It is putting a real strain on our society. Does that mean no one should be able to make a life in the United States? Of course not. I wish some kind of regulation could be set up. Many of these people make us a better nation, including Haitians.

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