Rep. Barbara Lee
The Honorable George Walker Bush
President of the United States
The White House
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President:
All immigrants and asylum seekers who come to this country are due equal
justice under the law. The United States’ policies on immigration must be
color-blind, however, I am extremely concerned about the prejudicial and
biased treatment from the Administration as it relates to Haitians
The Administration has acknowledged lengthy imprisonment and deportation
as a means to discourage more Haitians from coming to America; however the
events of October 29th should make it very clear that those means do not
justify the end. Continuing a policy of detaining Haitians indefinitely
who are seeking asylum in the U.S. will not discourage other Haitians from
also seeking refuge.
As a member of the Congressional Black Caucus’s Haiti Task Force, and a
sponsor of legislation to support Haiti through humanitarian relief, I
implore you to change the current policy toward Haitian refugees and to
immediately release all Haitians seeking asylum who are currently being
detained by the Immigration and Naturalization Service. The desperation of
the Haitian seeking asylum is apparent: they are risking their lives, and
the futures of their families to have a chance at a better life.
CBC Haiti Task Force Chair, Carrie Meek, stated, “The Bush Administration
has insisted on treating Haitians differently from other people coming to
this country seeking political asylum. They imprison Haitians
indefinitely; they don’t release Haitians into the care of the Haitian
community; they don’t let Haitians get the help they need to prepare their
asylum cases; and then they deport them.”
We have worked together to improve the conditions of asylum seekers from
Cuba, Nicaragua, Africa, and Venezuala; surely we can find a way to assist
Haitians. With over 1 million Haitians in America and Canada, it is
imperative that we represent the interest of an emerging population while
also helping to restore humanitarian and developmental assistance to
Haiti. The absence of a balanced American policy on Haiti hinders any
potential for the recovery and eventual health for both of our nations.
Our global community suffers if we neglect Haiti and its people. I look
forward to working with you on this issue.
Member of Congress
Washington, DC – Congresswoman Lee joined in with other members of the Congressional Black Caucus calling on President Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell to retract statements made by U.S. Ambassador to the Organization of American States, Mr. Roger Noreiga. At a public meeting of the Inter-American Dialogue, a Washington, D.C. public policy think tank, Ambassador Noreiga questioned the integrity of Haitian President Jean Bertrand Aristide to work cooperatively with the United States to fulfill international agreements.
A member of the Congressional Black Caucus’ (CBC) Haiti Task Force, Congresswoman Lee agreed with the comments of Congresswoman Carrie Meek, Task Force Chair. Meek wrote Bush, “We deplore such derisive comments coming from senior US officials at a time when the Government of Haiti has done nothing but demonstrate good faith in its dealings with the US, the Organization of American States and the International Financial Institutions. It has been no less than six weeks since the OAS passed a resolution applauding the Government of Haiti’s work to stabilize the country and establish a climate for new elections next year. And yet the US gives them no credit.”
In her own letter to Bush, Lee appealed to Bush for a more humane response to Haitian refugees, “As a member of the Congressional Black Caucus’ Haiti Task Force, and a sponsor of legislation to support Haiti through humanitarian relief, I implore you to change the current policy toward Haitian refugees and to immediately release all Haitians seeking asylum who are currently being detained by the Immigration and Naturalization Service. The desperation of the Haitians seeking asylum is apparent: they are risking their lives, and the futures of their families to have a chance at a better life.”
Lee also demanded that Bush immigration policies avoid any suggestion of racial discrimination. Lee told Bush, “United States’ policies on immigration must be color-blind.”
The Congressional Black Caucus has already made attempts to work with the Bush Administration to improve the conditions of asylum seekers from Cuba, Nicaragua, Africa, and Venezuela: Haiti should be no different.