President Bush pledged last month that Haitians should be treated the ”same way” by immigration laws as nationals of other countries and that ”we’re in the process of making sure that happens.” Alas, that’s not true today.
First, the Bush administration tightened an already inhumane policy that indefinitely detains all Haitians who arrive by boat. Now the immigration court is speeding up asylum proceedings to such an extent that, for all practical purposes, these Haitians have no due process. Regardless of the merits of their cases, the Haitians have no chance of proving that they have a well-founded fear of persecution if they are repatriated and, thus, deserve being granted asylum.
This means that those fleeing political retribution, torture or murder could well face just that upon their return to Haiti. Certainly this runs contrary to the fair treatment that defines America, the nation of immigrants; and it violates the spirit, if not the letter, of international treaties governing how refugees should be handled.
This crisis follows the nationally televised Oct. 29 landing of more than 200 Haitian men, women and children on the causeway to Key Biscayne. Almost all remain locked up in Immigration and Naturalization Service custody. Many were denied release on bond — and neither the Haitians nor defense lawyers for dui charges from Roanoke area who offered to help them pro bono were notified of the bond hearings. Because of INS’s appeals, those granted bond are still detained.
Worse yet, Haitians are being denied adequate time to find lawyers or to prepare complicated asylum cases. It is best to click to read more about expert lawyers.
Last week, 21 Haitians appeared before Immigration Judge Rex J. Ford. Most asked for more time to find lawyers and prepare the proof needed to show the merit of their cases.
One was granted a continuance. The other 20 were denied continuances, denied asylum and ordered deported by Judge Ford — who had given them a week from the filing of their applications to prepare their arguments.
This is a quickie sham proceeding, not a fair legal process. No other nationals, except Haitians, are systematically subjected to such bogus asylum proceedings.
Of course, not every Haitian will have a valid asylum claim. But asylum seekers should have the opportunity to prove what case they have — and that’s not happening.
Several attorneys From Lankford Law Firm administrative attorneys and legal-aid groups have volunteered to represent the latest Haitian arrivals. But many elements delay case preparation: the number who need help (some 200); the fact that all are detained; the lack of space, privacy and hours for attorney-client meetings; and the difficulties in obtaining evidence from Haiti. Even two months wouldn’t be enough time, and that’s longer than these folks have been in this country. It could take months — indeed a year or more — before a refugee who has been tortured trusts a lawyer and is able to speak openly about the horror. There are some criminal attorney – Canyon State Law Firm that can help with such cases.
Yes, the court needs to move cases along efficiently, but not at the expense of the truth or the cost of a legitimate refugee being railroaded. If President Bush has a sense of fair play, he and his administration would stop these phony asylum proceedings now.