U.S. Bias and Indefinite Detention Policy Increases Haitian Suffering & Grief
by Marguerite Laurent, November 16, 2004

HLLNetwork Note:

81-year old senior dies in U.S. custody at Krome detention center.

Below are two Miami Herald articles on the senseless death of 81 year old Joseph Dandica. The Haitian Lawyers Leadership Network extends its sympathies and condolences to Mr. Dandica's family and friends in the U.S. and in Haiti.The consequences of the Coup d'etat and U.S. racist and immoral immigration policy for Haitians are simply fiendish, cruel and barbarically callous and well told by the story of Joseph Danticat (see the two articles below) who was 81 years old when he died last week at Krome detention center.

All us Haitians, both in Haiti and to a lesser extent, in the Diaspora, are caught in the crossfires of this diabolical act of tyranny (the Bush's "regime change") denying Haitians the right to life, liberty, self-determination and even the simple right to travel outside of Haiti with a valid visa.

Mr. Dandica's death and his family's suffering and grief exemplifies our relentless sufferings, griefs and cumulative losses as a people, as a nation, as sentient human beings. How Haitian life is not valued by the powers-that-be. For, Joseph Dantica is but another Haitian life loss. Another number in the more than 4,000 Haitians senselessly caught-up in the crossfires of this U.S/Canada/France orchestrated removal and destruction of Haiti's Constitutional government (in collaboration, that is, with the Haitian morally repugnat elites (the "MREs"), death squads mercenaries, ex-military and a few bitter ex-Lavalas opportunists who didn't get jobs and favors from the elected government).

But, we know Mr. Dandica was someone's uncle, father, brother, pastor, friend....... Like the mostly nameless and faceless 4,000 or so Haitians who have lost their lives since the 2004 Coup D'etat, Mr. Dandica had dreams, a life work, purpose, family love. But that is simply denied by those who keep telling us to get over the Coup d'etat and move on and accept the illegitimate and repulsive Latortue and his death squads and the morally repugnant elite's rule.

As Mr. Dandica's famous niece, fame writer Edwidge Dandicat, remarked in the article below, the people of Haiti are caught now "in the crossfire and they have nowhere to go.'' Mr. Joseph Dantica did not deserve the treatment he received at Krome and from U.S. immigration authorities, nor the treatment he received from the UN and "police" in Haiti who blithely put his life and work in danger. Then left him defenseless and at the mercy of Haiti's mostly foreign-orchestrated chaos and then to U.S. homeland security authorities.

But, his story is part and parcel of the Haitian story of struggle, sacrifice and loss at the hands of the world's most resourceful and "educated."

We try here at the Haitian Lawyers' Leadership Network to tell that story, to give voice to the distraught and disenfranchised in Haiti, in this sacred 2004-year. AND to document their indomitable courage. Their continued resistance to tyranny and oppression in this time when the greatest powers in the world have combined their forces to hurl Haiti's impoverished back to the dictatorship of death squad mercenaries and sweatshop kingpins.

We pray and work so that the slaughter being supervised by UN troops will STOP. So that the over 1,000 political prisoners shall soon be released and that the U.S. warmongering neocons will get a conscience. We agitate so that no other 81-year old Haitian with a perfectly good visa and passport shall be treated so inhumanly and allowed to die so pointlessly, so senselessly in these United States of America.

We call on the better half of America we know exist to please stand up for what right, for authentic democracy and the rule of law and to denounce this sort of representation of the U.S. overseas and at home. May the rule of law, not force or the gun, quickly find the light of day so that this Haitian holocaust will END, be STOPPED.

I am so, so sorry Edwidge. Our deepest condolences. Keep your head up.

Marguerite Laurent, Esq.
Haitian Lawyers Leadership Network
November 16, 2004

The author can be reached at
Windows on Haiti Windows on Haiti

Twice a victim: first in Haiti, then in the U.S.
Posted: Mon Nov 15, 2004 9:15 pm Post subject: Twice a victim: first in Haiti, then in the U.S.
Twice a victim: first in Haiti, then in the U.S.

The gun battle started around 5 a.m. with Haitian police and U.N. troops entering the slum neighborhood of Bel Air, a stronghold for those still loyal to former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Using bulldozers, the police broke through barricades of burned-out cars.
But unlike previous raids into Bel Air that lasted less than an hour, this one, on Sunday, Oct. 24, would persist for the better part of the day.

Soon after the fighting started, Joseph Dantica, 81, took refuge with a handful of people inside the Church of the Redeemer. Dantica had founded the Baptist church more than 25 years ago and was its senior pastor. He had spent the better part of his life in Bel Air, and although his family had begged him to move somewhere safer, he always refused.

''He was a very good man and extremely loyal to the neighborhood where he lived,'' said his niece, acclaimed Haitian author Edwidge Danticat. ``Even when things got very rough and difficult in Bel Air, he stayed. He stayed through all the different regimes, serving the people of his neighborhood. He was, in his own quiet way, trying to make a difference.''

By 9:30 a.m., police and U.N. troops using armored cars with mounted machine guns, approached Dantica's church. The police wanted to go inside. Dantica let them in.

They then took up combat positions on the upper floors of the church, as well as an adjoining school the church operates. The new vantage point allowed police to ambush a group of gang members in an alley below.

''A lot of them must have died,'' said Dantica's son, Maxo. ``The shooting went on for a long time.''
A government spokesman said one police officer died in the day's fighting and at least two ''bandits'' were killed. An unknown number of civilians were wounded.

By early afternoon, the police began to withdraw, calling the operation a success. A government spokesman told The Associated Press that Haitian police would establish a permanent presence in the area to protect residents.

Maxo didn't believe them. No sooner had the police left than he heard there was a group of gunmen looking for him and his father. ''I told my father we must go,'' he said. ``And my father said no. He would stay and talk to them. He knew many of them since they were little boys.''

The next day, gang leaders came knocking on Dantica's door. They were angry, accusing him of cooperating with the police and setting up the roof-top ambush. According to Maxo, the gang members claimed 15 people died in the alley and Dantica was going to have to pay for their funerals.

When the gang members left, Dantica knew he could no longer stay. For three days he hid in a neighbor's house. ''When the gangs couldn't find him,'' Maxo said, ``they went into the church and took the altar out into the street and burned it.''

On Thursday, Oct. 28, friends smuggled Dantica out of Bel Air and the next day, Dantica and Maxo boarded a plane for Miami.

Although he provided immigration officials in Miami a passport with a valid visa, he told the immigration official that he wanted to seek asylum in the United States.

'The official told him, `Well, if that's the case, then you have to go into the system,' '' Maxo recalled. ''I begged them, `Please, do not hold my father, because he will not survive.' ''
Homeland Security officials sent Dantica to the Krome detention center along with Maxo.

''I couldn't imagine why they would put someone his age in prison,'' said Edwidge, who rushed to the airport hoping to retrieve Dantica. ``Especially since we were here ready to be responsible for him.''
According to Maxo, when Dantica arrived at Krome, his high-blood-pressure medication was taken away from him. Maxo and his father were placed in separate housing units.

Edwidge hired immigration attorney John Pratt, who tried Monday to convince immigration officers to release Dantica on humanitarian grounds. He did arrange for a ''credible fear interview'' Tuesday morning.

Sitting in the waiting room before Tuesday's hearing, Dantica, according to Pratt, said: ``They didn't give me my medicine.''

Before Pratt could find out more, they were called before the hearing officer. Five minutes into the hearing, Dantica leaned forward and threw up. ''All of a sudden he started vomiting,'' Pratt said.

``He had some kind of an attack. He fell back against the wall. He looked like he had passed out.''
A medic from the detention center was summonedbut suggested Dantica was faking his illness. ''He's not cooperating,'' the medic said, according to Pratt. After a few minutes, the medic agreed to take Dantica to the detention center clinic.

''The medic was very insensitive,'' Pratt said. ``His whole attitude was wrong.''

Tuesday afternoon, Dantica was taken to Jackson Memorial Hospital. Pratt was told Dantica would be held overnight for observation.

''I asked the officials at Krome, could a family member go and visit him in the hospital, and they said no, for security reasons,'' Pratt said. ``I kept trying to tell them that having family members around him would be reassuring for him, especially if his condition was serious. They kept saying no.''
On Wednesday, Pratt was told that Dantica would remain at the hospital for at least another day. Officials again refused to let the family visit Dantica.

At 11 p.m. Wednesday, Pratt was notified that Dantica had died. ``I don't know what he died of. But once they realized it was serious they should have let this man see his family.''

The Department of Homeland Security issued a statement saying Dantica ``died of pancreatitis while in Homeland Security custody, which an autopsy by the Miami-Dade County medical examiner's office revealed as a preexisting and fatal condition.''

``It is unfortunate that Mr. Dantica died during the benefits application process, and we understand his family's grief, but there is no connection between the preexisting terminal medical condition he had and the process through which he entered the country.''

Homeland Security would not explain why Dantica was taken into custody if he had a valid visa, nor would the agency address claims that he had been deprived of his medication.

Maxo said he knew nothing of his father's illness. ''All I know is that he wasn't sick when we left Haiti,'' Maxo said.

Even in death Dantica is unable to return home.

Amid the escalating violence in Haiti, Maxo is afraid to take his father there for a funeral. Instead, Maxo plans to bury him on Saturday in New York, where they have relatives.

The final weeks of Dantica's life is the story of Haiti today, where good people find themselves vulnerable and alone and easily forgotten.

''He was one of those people caught in the crossfire,'' Edwidge said of her uncle. ``And that's true for the majority of people in Haiti; they are now in the crossfire and they have nowhere to go.''
© 2004 Herald.com and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.


Posted on Tue, Nov. 16, 2004
Freedom seeker finds death in America


Joseph Dantica survived Haiti for more than eight decades, the last 25 years as a Baptist minister of a church in one of the roughest gang-infested slums of Port-au-Prince. But he didn't have a chance once he crossed paths with the Department of Homeland Security here in Miami. Though he arrived with a valid visa to enter the United States, DHS detained him at its Krome prison. He died five days later, still in DHS custody.

The Rev. Dantica's mistakes: being Haitian and being honest with DHS.

His problems began back home, when Haitian and U.N. security forces raided his neighborhood and used the upper floors of his church to ambush gang members in an alley below. The next day, gang leaders accused the Rev. Dantica of aiding the police, and he knew he was in danger. So he fled on a plane to Miami on Friday, Oct. 29.

Petitioned for release

Here, he told DHS immigration officials the truth: He was seeking asylum. He also had a valid U.S. visa. He could have said nothing, walked out of the airport free to file for asylum at a local DHS office. But immigration officials took it upon themselves to put an 81-year-old Haitian preacher in a Krome prison cell.

His family hired a lawyer, John Pratt, who quickly petitioned for the Rev. Dantica's humanitarian release. No, DHS said, the reverend has to pass an asylum interview first. Meanwhile, his medications had been taken away from him at Krome.

Four days after arrival, he and Mr. Pratt were beginning the asylum interview when the Rev. Dantica suddenly threw up. Mr. Pratt describes the medic called in as ''insensitive'' in suggesting that the reverend ''wasn't cooperating'' because his eyes were open.

Family can't visit

Eventually, the Rev. Dantica was taken to Jackson Memorial Hospital. Krome officials relented and told Mr. Pratt that the reverend would get a humanitarian release after getting out of JMH. Even so, DHS officials wouldn't allow his family to visit him at the hospital. What was the risk? That a sick old man would escape?

He never got out. The DHS statement: ``Mr. Dantica died of pancreatis while in Homeland Security custody, which an autopsy by the Miami-Dade County medical examiner's office revealed as a preexisting and fatal condition.''

That doesn't explain why he was detained or treated inhumanely. ''He comes to this country to seek refuge and freedom at 81 and he dies in detention,'' said Mr. Pratt. ``I hope it never happens again.''

Unfortunately, we've seen DHS repeatedly take inhumane action, particularly with Haitians. DHS singles out Haitian asylum seekers for mandatory detention and denial of release. We've also seen numerous complaints about medical care in DHS custody. The Justice Department should investigate this case and DHS's treatment of Haitians in general. DHS must be held accountable.

Forwarded by the Haitian Lawyers Leadership
"Men anpil chay pa lou" is Kreyol for - "Many hands make light a heavy load."
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Urge the Caribbean Community to stand firm in not recognizing the illegal Latortue regime:

Selected CARICOM Contacts
zilibutton Slide Show at the July 27, 2004 Haiti Forum Press Conference during the DNC in Boston honoring those who stand firm for Haiti and democracy; those who tell the truth about Haiti; Presenting the Haiti Resolution, and; remembering Haiti's revolutionary legacy in 2004 and all those who have lost life or liberty fighting against the Feb. 29, 2004 Coup d'etat and its consequences
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