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12/28 USA: Immigtant News - No Christmas Cheers

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  • SIUHIN@aol.com
    12/28 USA: Immigtant News - No Christmas Cheers By: National Immigrant Soliadrity Network No Immigrant Bashing! Support Immigrant Rights! webpage:
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 28 11:55 PM
      12/28 USA: Immigtant News - No Christmas Cheers
      By: National Immigrant Soliadrity Network
      No Immigrant Bashing! Support Immigrant Rights!
      webpage: http://www.actionla.org/ISN/

      *to join the lmmigrant Soliadrity Network daily-news litserv, send e-mail to:
      *a monthly ISN monthly Action Alert! listserv, go to webpage

      News Summary:
      1) Jordanian student fights deportation to sustain dream (Pittsburgh
      2) Two Years Gone, Post-9/11 Detainee Still Held Without Charges (ABC News)
      3) Fear and Tight Screening Stem Green Card Lottery (New York Times)
      4) Some Mexicans Fear Bush's Immigrant Proposal Is Tactic for '04 Campaign
      (Washington Post)
      5) Flaw in immigration law threatens deportation for Haitian refugees
      (Associated Press)
      6) N.J. town sticking with plan to close immigrant work zone, immigrant right
      activists protest (The Examiner)

      1) Jordanian student fights deportation to sustain dream
      Saturday, December 27, 2003
      By Bill Schackner, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

      Abdelqader K. Abu-Snaineh expects to get a degree from La Roche College in
      August. But his excitement over that milestone is tempered by a more worrisome
      date on his calendar a month later.
      That day is Sept. 15, when he goes before a judge to fight the government's
      attempt to deport him.
      It's been six months since the Jordanian student became center stage in a
      debate over what, in terror-weary America, constitutes a harmless oversight or a
      threat to national security.
      Days after his 21st birthday in June, immigration officers led him away from
      campus in handcuffs and placed him in federal detention for failing to show up
      for special registration, a short-lived government program. Under it, males
      older than 16 from mostly Muslim countries were interviewed, photographed,
      His arrest was the first of its kind to surface publicly in Pittsburgh. To
      this day, people hold sharply different views on what the case illustrates.
      Some said they have little sympathy for those who run afoul of laws intended
      to safeguard Americans, even if those accused are college students like
      Abu-Snaineh, with no prior transgressions. Others insist the government overreacted,
      noting that Abu-Snaineh was labeled a Level 1 security risk, even though he
      himself notified La Roche about the missed appointment and had sought the
      college's advice on how to make things right.
      In interviews as he finished final exams this month, Abu-Snaineh seemed less
      interested in the debate over his arrest than in salvaging his dream of
      getting a job and a graduate degree in the United States, despite the government's
      attempt to have him removed.
      "I'm not going to give up," said Abu-Snaineh, who is studying computer
      science. "People go through changes, hard times, but sometimes you have to be
      strong. You have to live up to what your family expects of you and what you expect
      of yourself."
      He didn't tell his parents or two younger sisters about the arrest, saying
      they might worry or be disappointed in him. He hasn't seen them since late 2001,
      but can't risk traveling home to Jordan while the case is pending.
      "If I go home, I'm deported by default," he said. "I can't get back here
      Nor can he apply for jobs with much certainty or be sure that he can actually
      enroll in any graduate school that might admit him. He has reluctantly begun
      considering backup options like doing graduate work in Canada.
      "When you're a senior, you want to know what the next step is, you want to be
      able to prepare yourself," he said. "It's affected my life big time. It's
      affected me personally, socially. I want everything to be normal again."
      Some things have changed since Abu-Snaineh's nine-day detention.
      Earlier this month, the government terminated The National Security Entry/Exit
      Registration System, under which special registrations were conducted. And
      two federal court rulings called into question some aspects of the Bush
      administration's war on terrorism, specifically its handling of prisoners.
      But Michael Gilhooly, director of public affairs for the eastern region of
      Immigration Custom Enforcement, said the elimination of the program doesn't
      change the fact that, at the time Abu-Snaineh was cited, it was in force.
      While it was in effect, critics including civil liberties' groups argued that
      the program's focus on a subset of foreigners amounted to little more than
      religious and ethnic profiling.
      Abu-Snaineh's lawyer, Robert Whitehill, said the program was poorly
      publicized and flawed. He said it snared someone who is the sort of foreign visitor the
      United States ought to embrace, someone with solid grades and a track record
      of involvement in campus activities from athletics to tutoring.
      "He wants to stay here, in my opinion, for all the right reasons. He sees
      opportunities to better himself," Whitehill said. "It's hard to imagine many
      greater distractions on a student's intellectual activities than facing the
      possibility of being removed, not from the college or university, but from the
      country in which you are studying."
      But those more supportive of the government's crackdown on foreign visitors
      argue a bigger issue is at stake than any one immigration case, or whether one
      government program had flaws that led to its demise.
      After all, no federal program can be perfect, said Paul Rosenzweig, senior
      legal research fellow at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C.
      "Are we bound not to act unless we're perfect?" he asked.
      "Some of the Sept. 11 terrorists came here on student visas," Rosenzweig
      said. "If heightened American scrutiny has dissuaded people from coming here
      that's unfortunate, but equally unfortunate is the fact that some people have in
      the past taken advantage of our student visa program."
      He's not convinced that a 10 percent decline in foreign students coming from
      Middle Eastern countries reported this fall by the Institute of International
      Education is necessarily the result of harsher visa rules, including the
      special registration program. He said the economy, for one, could have played a
      But civil liberties groups, such as the ACLU, say the special registrations
      sent out a message, especially to those in Middle Eastern countries, that they
      were liable to be harassed in America.
      "Regardless of whether he violated the registration requirement, is there any
      evidence that he poses a threat? It's not like he was fleeing," Pittsburgh
      ACLU Legal Director Witold Walczak said at the time of Abu-Snaineh's arrest. "He
      was taking 18 credits. He had at least a 3.3 average. They know where he is
      and what he's doing -- studying. Now he's a threat?"
      Abu-Snaineh, who expressed gratitude toward the people who had come to his
      aid, was one of two Jordanians attending La Roche who missed the April 25
      special registration deadline. The second student, Bassam Yasen, was not detained
      after turning himself in to immigration authorities and also is fighting a
      government bid to remove him from the country.
      A calendar hearing will likely be held in April, but a hearing on the merits
      of the case has not yet been set.
      Bill Schackner can be reached at bschackner@... or 412-263-1977.
      2) Two Years Gone
      Post-9/11 Detainee Still Held Without Charges
      By Nancy Weiner

      B U F F A L O, N.Y., Dec. 27— Benemar Benatta still isn't sure why the U.S.
      government kept him locked in solitary confinement long after it knew he had
      nothing to do with 9/11.
      "I am not [a] criminal," Benatta said. "I [have] never been a criminal."
      An electronics technician in the Algerian air force, Benatta was sent to the
      United States in 2000 to train with a military plane manufacturer.
      But just six days before 9/11, he fled to Canada, seeking asylum.
      Fake ID
      He was detained at the border for having false identification. Then the
      attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon happened, and the 29-year-old
      Muslim was sent to a prison in New York City where he says he was locked in
      solitary confinement 24 hours a day.
      "If they took me outside, outside my cell, sometimes they twist my hands,"
      Benatta said. "Sometimes they knock my head with the wall."
      Two months later, the FBI cleared Benatta of any connection to terrorists.
      But Benatta was never told that he had been cleared, and he remained in solitary
      confinement without legal representation for five more months.
      "No attorney that I know of knew that he existed," said Joe Mistrett, a
      federal public defender now representing Benatta.
      Eventually, Benatta was sent to a detention facility in Buffalo, N.Y., to
      face charges for possession of a fake American ID, and granted a lawyer —
      "I'm not faulting the government for taking an interest in Benemar Benatta,"
      Mistrett said. "I just don't understand why they persisted, and the way he was
      held in custody."
      ‘How Many More?’
      In September, a federal magistrate in Buffalo concluded the government's
      handling of Benatta bordered on the bizarre. The judge recommended that the
      criminal charges against Benatta be dropped. They were.
      "One thing we need to find out is, how many more Mr. Benattas are there in
      custody?" said Elisa Massimino of the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights. "How
      many people have, either intentionally or not, been slipped through the cracks
      and are being held without charge and without access to counsel?"
      Justice Department and immigration officials declined to be interviewed for
      this story.
      "I tried to be understanding," Benatta said, "[but] what happened has
      happened already, you know? Apology or anything, it's not going to change anything."
      Benatta remains behind bars, fighting deportation to Algeria, where he fears
      he could face life in prison or execution.
      3) Fear and Tight Screening Stem Green Card Lottery
      By Nina Bernstein
      The New York Times, December 27, 2003
      For years it has been the annual wild card of American immigration policy:
      a worldwide lottery in which millions gamble on winning a green card, and
      with it the chance to live and work legally in the United States. But this
      year, with a Dec. 30 deadline looming and 55,000 green cards at stake, the
      lottery has attracted fewer than half the usual number of applications,
      falling to 5 million from as many as 13 million.
      The startling drop-off, everyone agrees, results from the fact that for the
      first time applications are being accepted only by computer, and government
      officials say that has curtailed duplications and fraud.
      But immigrants and their advocates say the falloff, while linked to the
      computerization, results from a variety of other factors: fear of giving
      information to the government online; lack of access to computers; and new
      opportunities for immigrants to be defrauded.
      The falloff, and the different explanations, show that like so much else
      involving immigrants and government the lottery is being transformed by new
      perceptions of fear and uncertainty.
      State Department officials insist that the apparent decline is misleading.
      For the first time, the officials said, they can electronically compare
      applications, automatically disqualify anyone who applies more than once,
      and store information about applicants. In the past, they say, multiple
      applications often went undetected including many from immigrants desperate
      to legalize their undocumented lives in New York.
      But immigrants themselves say other reasons are also depressing the
      numbers. Some people simply lack access to the tools to apply: a digital
      photo scanner, a computer and an Internet connection. Some already in the
      United States fear that leaving a computer trail could make them targets of
      deportation. And hundreds of thousands of others who thought that they were
      applying were tricked instead, by official-looking Web sites run by a Fort
      Lauderdale couple living their own version of the American dream.
      The couple, John Romano and Hoda M. Nofal, bought a $1.5 million waterfront
      home, paid off more than $739,000 in credit card debt and amassed a $3.5
      million bank account by fraudulently collecting fees for Internet lottery
      applications that were never submitted, according to criminal charges filed
      against them in October by federal authorities.
      Now, with only a week to go, upstart businesses in computer shops, tax
      offices and basements all over New York are offering to help would-be
      applicants play the new odds. Some are scams, New York City officials
      warned last week. But many are just part of the age-old self-help network
      of former greenhorns.
      A currency trader from Northern Ireland, for example, recently found aid at
      a tiny copy shop run by Bangladeshis on the Upper West Side of Manhattan,
      after discovering by chance that he was one of those conned by the Florida
      couple's Web site.
      The copy shop, on West 77th Street, is so small that it offers only
      standing-room use of its two computers, for $6 an hour. But two of the
      three Bangladeshi men behind the counter are past green-card lottery
      winners, and they were already trying to help one of their own countrymen
      convert a passport photograph into digital pixels when the Irish trader
      confided his troubles.
      "After about a dozen tries, we got it in," the trader said, pleading for
      anonymity after disclosing that he had overstayed temporary visas for seven
      years. "It was the blind leading the blind."
      Word spread, and in recent days a small stream of local deliverymen has
      come to the copy shop for similar help for about $15 - "black people,
      Chinese people, Yemeni, Egypt," said Sanu Sheak, the shop's Bangladeshi
      owner, whose brother-in-law is another lottery winner.
      "Everybody has a dream to come to America - the golden dream," added Mr.
      Sheak, 39, who sold flowers in the street and cleaned offices at night when
      he first arrived in 1986. "They think that it's easy, but then they come
      here and find out."
      No immigrant group in New York City has played the green card lottery
      better than Bangladeshis. They began winning their way to America in 1990,
      when Congress established the program, officially called the Diversity Visa
      Lottery, as a permanent reincarnation of smaller lotteries in 1986 and 1989.
      The number of lottery green cards is small compared with the 620,000 others
      available yearly, but those are reserved for the close relatives of
      citizens and people sponsored by employers. The ostensible purpose of the
      lottery was to encourage ethnic diversity in the American population, but
      it was widely seen as a means of increasing European immigration. The
      lottery programs in the 1980's were dubbed "the Irish sweepstakes," because
      the biggest winners were immigrants from the Republic of Ireland living
      illegally in the United States.
      "This was part of the story of wrong assumptions in our immigration policy
      debate," said Muzaffar Chishti, a senior policy analyst at the Migration
      Policy Institute, a research and advocacy group. "They thought, more Irish.
      No one knew the principal beneficiaries were going to be Bangladeshis."
      Intense press coverage, high levels of literacy amid poverty, and large
      families help explain why so many Bangladeshis applied, officials say,
      adding that identity fraud was also a factor.
      In New York, where about half the Bangladeshis in the United States have
      settled, their numbers grew to 107,000 from 9,000 during the 1990's.
      Stuart Patt, a State Department spokesman, said that so far the flow of
      electronic applications (through dvlottery.state.gov) mirrors past
      patterns, with Bangladesh, Nigeria and Ethiopia in the lead, and more than
      170 countries represented. But the official estimate of 5 million
      applicants by the end of the month is well below the 13 million mailed in
      1999 and 2000, and even the 8.7 million sent immediately after Sept. 11,
      2001. Last year, 10 million applications were received.
      The lottery is open only to those from countries that have sent fewer than
      50,000 people to the United States in the past five years. From millions of
      applicants, the State Department randomly selects about 110,000 "winners,"
      sending them invitations to apply for a visa at the closest consular
      office. About half fail to complete the process in time or are
      disqualified. The supply of diversity visas goes to the rest first-come,
      first served.
      In the past, applications that were not selected were discarded unopened,
      Mr. Patt said. To improve the odds, some people applied in multiple names,
      and when one of their identities "won," brought in false documentation.
      Digitized photographs will make such fraud far more difficult. "We will be
      using facial recognition software to weed out people in multiple
      identities," Mr. Patt said. Another benefit, he added, is that the Internet
      bypasses corrupt and incompetent postal systems that sometimes dumped
      thousands of undelivered applications.
      Bangladeshis here readily agree that the old way encouraged fraud, and some
      praised the new process for greater fairness. "One per person - this is a
      very good system," said Bishawjit Saha, owner of a Bangladeshi bookstore in
      Jackson Heights, Queens, where two college students set up shop recently to
      help with electronic applications.
      But Mr. Saha and one of the college students also said that the ease of
      merging and searching such computer databases is frightening away some
      would-be applicants.
      "A lot of people are fearful about how this is going to be used," said the
      student, Hamidul Hoq, who already has a green card.
      Mr. Saha cited the case of an illegal immigrant grocery worker who has
      wavered about applying. The worker fears that if he enters identifying
      information online he could be giving himself up for deportation to the
      successors of the Immigration and Naturalization Service in the Department
      of Homeland Security.
      Similar concerns reduced applications by the Irish in New York, said
      Siobhan Dennehy, executive director of the Emerald Isle Immigration Center
      in Queens.
      "People are being cautious this year, more than any before," Ms. Dennehy
      said, noting that since Nov. 1, when this year's lottery opened, only a few
      hundred have showed up to apply online. Last year more than 2,500
      applications forms were collected from the center.
      But Mr. Patt, the State Department spokesman, said there were no plans to
      share the data with other agencies.
      "The information is not being collected to look for people to deport," Mr.
      Patt said. "It's not being done as a tool for enforcement, it's being done
      for administrative improvement." When pressed, he added: "Would we make
      that information available if Homeland Security would make the request? I'm
      not saying we would deny it."
      The Bangladeshi student, Mr. Hoq, was not reassured. "That's my fear," he
      said, "they don't rule it out."
      In recent years some applicants used a family address abroad, hoping to
      collect the visa overseas without disclosing that they had lived in the
      United States illegally. But in October 2002, as part of tightened security
      after 9/11, the government began keeping track of exits as well as entries,
      Ms. Dennehy noted. More immigrants now fear that if they leave America,
      they will be unable to return.
      Still, there will always be people who dream of striking it lucky, said Mr.
      Sheak, whose copy shop is now a neighborhood fixture - "like family," broke
      in one regular customer, an elderly woman whose rich Hungarian accent
      seemed undiluted by more than 50 years in New York.
      Mr. Sheak grinned under his Knicks cap, as his two lottery winners sprang
      to serve her. "In Bangladesh, you have to be lucky to be alive," he said.
      "Miss, I keep telling you, everything depends on luck."
      4) Bush Immigration Plan Hailed
      Some Mexicans Fear Proposal Is Tactic for '04 Campaign
      By Kevin Sullivan
      The Washington Post, December 25, 2003
      MEXICO CITY, Dec. 24 -- Mexicans reacted with cautious optimism Wednesday
      to reports that President Bush planned to propose immigration reforms more
      than two years after the United States shelved the issue -- Mexico's top
      priority -- to focus on combating terrorism.
      Analysts said they worried that Bush's plan, which officials said Bush
      would present before he traveled to Mexico in mid-January for a hemispheric
      summit and private talks with President Vicente Fox, could be little more
      than a campaign tactic in the election year.
      But whatever the motivation, many also said they hoped Bush's interest in
      Mexico and immigration reform were genuine and that relations that had
      soured over Mexican opposition to the war in Iraq were on the rebound.
      "This could be a very risky Christmas present for President Fox," said
      Rafael Fernandez de Castro, one of Mexico's leading international relations
      specialists. "This is very welcome news. But I am worried that we could end
      up getting more security on the border without more legal channels for
      workers to go to the United States."
      Republican Party officials said Tuesday that Bush planned to propose a
      program that would make it easier for immigrants to work legally in the
      United States, while at the same time stepping up security and enforcement
      along the 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico border.
      They said the plan would include a new program of temporary work visas, as
      well as an effort to grant legal status to some of the immigrants already
      in the United States. Most government and private studies estimate that at
      least 8 million immigrants live in the country illegally, more than half of
      whom are Mexican.
      "To do immigration reform, he is going to need Congress and it's going to
      be a tough battle in an election year," Fernandez de Castro said, noting
      that since the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, U.S. politicians have been
      more interested in closing borders than opening them. "But in 2000, the
      Republicans lost a lot of votes by keeping their mouths shut on migration.
      They won't make that mistake again."
      Political analyst Gabriel Guerra called Bush's plan "very impressive if
      it's really half of what they say it is.
      "We have to wait and see what all the qualifications are, and how they
      respond to all the reactions to this trial balloon," Guerra said. "I don't
      see this as something feasible to get through Congress before the election."
      Immigration reform was the talk of Mexico three years ago, when Bush and
      Fox took office within a month of each other, and Bush's first foreign trip
      was to Fox's ranch in February 2001. Both men portrayed themselves as
      common-sense ranchers who wanted to improve the deadly situation along
      their shared border. An estimated 300,000 to 400,000 Mexicans every year
      cross illegally into the United States looking for work. Thousands have
      died trying, often by drowning or from exposure in the deserts and
      mountains in their path.
      For months after that initial meeting, officials in both governments worked
      toward a scheme that would have created mechanisms to make immigration, in
      Bush's words, more "safe, orderly and legal." Mexicans were excited that an
      issue that affects millions of families seemed to be getting personal
      attention from a U.S. president.
      But by the time Fox made a state visit to Washington in early September
      2001, it was clear that opposition in Congress meant there would be no
      immediate breakthroughs. A week later, terrorists attacked New York and the
      Pentagon, and immigration and Mexico dropped off Bush's list of priorities.
      Then Fox's vocal opposition to using military force in Iraq, and his
      refusal to vote with the United States at the U.N. Security Council, sent
      relations into a deep freeze. Fox and Bush seemed to begin repairing the
      damage when they met in Thailand at a meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic
      Cooperation summit in October.
      Guerra said he saw the reported immigration plan as "a domestic political
      initiative. It's not being done to try to salvage the relationship with Fox
      and become good buddies again."
      "Of course this is all political; he's trying to appeal to the Hispanic
      vote, two-thirds of which is Democratic," said Rossana Fuentes, managing
      editor of the Spanish-language edition of Foreign Affairs magazine.
      Fuentes said the Mexican government should take a pragmatic, realistic
      approach to Bush's proposals. She said Mexican officials should insist that
      the United States also contribute development money to Mexico to help
      alleviate the poverty and joblessness that leads to mass illegal immigration.
      "Then we will have a safer continent," she said. "It's in both countries'
      interest to develop Mexico."
      5) Flaw in immigration law threatens deportation for Haitian refugees
      By Ken Thomas
      The Associated Press, December 24, 2003
      NORTH MIAMI, Fla. (AP) -- Nearly a decade after leaving Haiti, Rigaud Rene
      ends each day with a prayer. He gives thanks for his wife and young son and
      their life in America - and prays that their time together will endure.
      Rene, a former political activist on the island, faces deportation
      following a lengthy legal battle with immigration authorities.
      He says deportation would devastate his family, forcing him to take his 1
      1/2-year-old American-born son to Haiti and leave behind his wife. He also
      will lose a job that helps him send about $300 a month to support family
      members in Haiti.
      "Some people pray to Jesus for miracles," Rene said during a recent
      interview. "They are not more special than me. So I hope that God can help
      me, too."
      Rene, 41, is one of about 3,000 Haitian migrants ensnared in what activists
      call a flaw in a 1998 law to help provide permanent residency - called
      green cards - to illegal aliens from Haiti who lived in the United States
      before 1996.
      The bill didn't include waivers for Haitian migrants known as "airplane
      refugees" who used forged documents to flee revengeful abuses and killings
      in the impoverished island after President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the
      country's first freely elected leader, was deposed in a 1991 coup by Gen.
      Raul Cedras.
      In Rene's case, immigration officials have maintained that the altered
      documents make him ineligible to live here legally because he committed
      fraud to enter the country.
      But local activists contend that pro-Aristide Haitians arriving by air had
      to use altered documents to escape possible harm in Haiti because the U.S.
      Coast Guard was interdicting refugees who came by sea and returning them.
      "All these people knew they were being looked for," said Steven Forester, a
      senior policy advocate for the Haitian Women of Miami, a nonprofit
      organization. "If you're being looked for by a regime that's chopping
      people's faces off, you don't get into a boat."
      Those who worked on the 1998 Haitian bill said the "airplane refugees" were
      not supposed to be left out. Paul Virtue, who served as general counsel at
      the former INS in 1998-99, said he thought "it was an oversight that they
      were excluded."
      "I don't think anyone really thought about the problem that people would
      face who came by aircraft," Virtue said.
      The Department of Homeland Security, which oversees immigration, declined
      comment on Rene's case. But Dan Kane, a department spokesman, stressed that
      every case is judged on the individual merits of an applicant's arguments.
      Rene initially sought asylum when he first entered the United States in
      1994 but was ordered deported by an immigration judge for using a forged
      passport. His appeal was pending when Congress passed the 1998 law to help
      Haitians. Rene sought a green card under the new law but his claim again
      was rejected in July 2001.
      He appealed the decision and Tuesday his case was sent back to be reheard
      by an immigration judge. But Aristide's return to power has weakened his
      argument in the past and his lawyer cautions that Rene could be deported at
      any moment.
      "It's very desperate. They could pick him up today," said Clarel Cyriaque,
      a Miami lawyer handling Rene's case.
      Rene tried to get a green card through his wife, Sonie Octalus, who came
      here in 1996 and is a legal permanent resident, but the family failed to
      demonstrate deporting him would result in an "extreme hardship."
      U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek, a Miami Democrat, introduced legislation in
      October to expand the Haitian law to include those who arrived by air and
      to prevent the government from deporting anyone with a pending application.
      But Meek said it faces an uncertain future.
      Meek said "the only real flicker of light" would come if the Bush
      administration embraces Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge's recent
      suggestion of support for an amnesty for illegal immigrants.
      Thousands of Haitians have applied for green cards under the 1998 Hatian
      Refugee Immigration Fairness Act. But the majority of the cases have yet to
      be adjudicated. A U.S. General Accounting Office report in October found
      that more than 11,000 of the 37,851 applications have been approved.
      Rene was an active Aristide supporter when the Haitian priest ran for
      president in 1990. He led 300 Aristide supporters in his hometown of Le
      Borgne and joined the pro-Aristide National Front for Change in Democracy.
      He passed out leaflets and photos supporting Aristide.
      A month after the coup, Rene said he was visited at his home by five
      members of the military. The men, who were carrying revolvers, threatened
      him and pushed him around, according to court documents. Rene then went
      into hiding for two years, staying with a friend in the northern city of
      "I was scared to go back to Le Borgne. If I go back to Le Borgne, anything
      could happen," he recalled.
      He fled Haiti for the Bahamas by boat in early 1994 and then used forged
      documents to fly to Miami International Airport in May 1994, months before
      Aristide was returned to power.
      Rene has built a new life in America, learning English at a local Catholic
      church, working as a deli clerk at a Miami Beach grocery store and taking
      night classes to earn a GED degree.
      Rene married Octalus in February 2001. Their son, Rikinson, was born the
      following year. The family lives in a small one-bedroom apartment, where a
      small bed sits in a cramped living room cooled by a white box fan.
      If Rene is deported, the couple will send Rikinson with him because Octalus
      doesn't drive, has no other relatives in the area and speaks limited
      English. But the decision has been wrenching.
      "If they send him to Haiti, it's like telling me I might as well go to
      Haiti, too," Octalus said, through a translator in her native Creole.
      The couple also wonders how they'll support their families in Haiti if Rene
      is deported. Rene sends about $300 a month to support two other children,
      two sisters and his mother; His wife sends $500 a month to six sisters on
      the island, paying their rent, school tuition and clothing.
      The U.S. Agency for International Development estimates Haitians living in
      the U.S. send between $700 million to $800 million to Haiti every year.
      Forester, of Haitian Women of Miami, worries about the impact on families
      in Haiti who lose financial support when relatives are deported.
      "If they really want to send a message not to flee, what they're doing by
      deporting these people is causing the very migration outflow that they say
      they're trying to prevent," Forester said.
      A man of faith, Rene says his hopes have been reduced to prayer. Prayer, he
      quips, is another part of the American experience.
      "In God We Trust," Rene said with a smile. "That's what the Americans say."
      6) Freehold sticking with plan to close work zone
      By Clare Marie Celano
      The Examiner (Allentown, N.J.), December 25, 2003
      Representatives from an area citizens group fighting for immigrants’ rights
      appeared at a Borough Council meeting in Freehold Borough for the second time
      on Dec. 15.
      This time Mayor Michael Wilson was in attendance, and as they say, "the
      gloves were off."
      Members of the Monmouth County Residents for Immigrants Rights came to
      protest borough officials’ decision to close a so-called muster zone on Throckmorton
      Street. The muster zone is due to close on Jan. 1.
      The group’s members claim that shutting the area where day laborers are
      picked up for work will deny them of the right to earn a living and provide for
      their families. Some people who come to the muster zone to hook up with
      em­ployers are in the country illegally.
      Virginia McGlone of Ocean Township, a member of the immi­grants rights group,
      once again asked municipal officials to delay their decision to close the
      muster zone. She suggested that they cre­ate a task force to look into the is­sue
      of day laborers. She asked that members of the community come together to
      talk about the problem.
      "We should reach out to every organization that has experience with day
      laborers," McGlone said.
      Gabrielle Jemma of Keansburg said she was a union organizer for more than 30
      "Your notice closing the muster zone starts out by talking about the problems
      like horn-blowing and loitering at the muster zone, but never mentioned the
      fact that 49 immigrants spent the day cleaning up the muster zone," Jemma said.
      She said when people from other parts of the county see what she called a
      civil rights issue, they re­spond to it. Jemma said she be­lieves the basis of
      the order to close the muster zone was to reduce the Latino population in
      After hearing the pleas of those who want the muster zone to stay open,
      Wilson told the audience, "OK, I’m going to hit you right be­tween the eyes with
      this first. Then, later on, I’ll soften up a bit.
      "How dare you tell me how to run my town? I’ve been mayor of this town for 18
      years. I’ve been elected by the people of this town five times and 51 percent
      of them think I’ve been doing a good job. I take umbrage at outsiders coming
      here and telling us how to run Freehold Borough. I’m tired of let­ters calling
      us racists," he said.
      Wilson shared a personal sliver of his life and told those in atten­dance
      that he adopted his daugh­ter, Ashley, 16, from Colombia.
      "But you know how I did it?" he asked. "I did it legally."
      Wilson said Freehold Borough has tried to accommodate the im­migrants who
      have come to the town seeking a place to live and work.
      "We stepped up to the plate five years ago. We tried to help our res­idents.
      It didn’t work. We became a drop-off center," he said of the muster zone. "We’
      re ready in Freehold Borough, but this should be a regional effort. The
      muster zone will close on Jan. 1."
      Wilson said borough and county officials will meet on Dec. 30 to discuss the
      Councilman Kevin Coyne said he has been researching locations for a muster
      zone outside of the bor­ough. He mentioned Brookdale Community College in the
      Lincroft section of Middletown as one possible location.
      "It’s smack in the middle of the county and there is a large amount of work
      there. You can get to any town in the county by bus from there. If the county
      decides that this work force is so important to them, then they should
      accommo­date these workers," he said. "But every time we say the word ‘regional,’ we
      hear good-bye."
      Council President Sharon Shutzer said she resents being told the borough is
      not doing enough to address the issue. She said she knows in her heart how much
      time and effort has gone into the matter.
      She then specifically addressed the members of the immigrants rights group
      and said, "I would like to know which of you were around when these day laborers
      were scrambling around in the woods because it’s the only place they could
      find to sleep. I want to know which of you were with the fire department when
      they risked their lives to go into an over­crowded place to save people’s lives.
      Where were you when these people needed help all along? We’ve made a decision
      and my vote stands."
      The council also heard from someone who could see the muster zone issue from
      another vantage point. Hal Rifkin of Manalapan has owned and operated a family
      farm on Smithburg Road for years. Rifkin said he visits the muster zone at
      least once a week to pick up day laborers.
      Rifkin said he did not come to protest the closing of the muster zone, but
      rather to advise the coun­cil of the importance of the muster zone to area
      farmers and landsca­pers. He cited information he re­ceived from fellow farmers who
      had picked up day laborers in Toms River at a hiring hall.
      "There’s a fee to register and a fee to pick-up," he said. "I would have no
      problem paying those fees."
      Rifkin said he and every other farmer can produce food alone, but they can
      not harvest it all by themselves.
      "It’s too big an undertaking." he said. "In America, 95 percent of the food
      harvested comes from Hispanic laborers. When all of you sit down to have a meal
      it would do you well to remember this."
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