Hallandale Beach Blog -A common sense public policy overview offering a critical perspective on the current events, politics, govt., public policy, sports scene and pop culture of the U.S., South Florida and Europe, especially the UK and Sweden. In particular, Broward & Miami-Dade County, and the cities of Hallandale Beach, Hollywood & Aventura. Trust me when I tell you, this part of Florida is NOT the Land of Lincoln. Pictured in upper-left is Hallandale Beach's iconic beachball-colored Water Tower on State Road A1A; September 2008 photo by me, South Beach Hoosier. © 2013 Hallandale Beach Blog, All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Haitian refugee drama makes HB's moment in national news bitter and futile

I woke up last Tuesday morning at my sister's place in Pembroke Pines, where I was staying for a few days, expecting to finally catch Channel 10's Megan Glaros guest-hosting the weather duties that week on ABC News' Good Morning America, having missed her on Monday.
http://www.local10.com/station/3619791/detail.html

Apparently she'd done that before, but I'd read a nugget in the Herald saying that she'd be doing it and I wanted to see how she interacted with the rest of the ABC crew.


(Megan is from Dyer, Indiana, a.k.a 'The Region," the nickname all IU students use to refer to that part of NW Indiana that's part of the Chicago market, and therefore the part of the state that actually changes its clocks twice a year.


As I understand it, after initially attending T.C.U. in Fort Worth -much like my IU friend Colleen Cole from Elmhurst, IL, who'd earlier been a Horned Frog-turned-Hooosier- Megan , eventually made the right decision to go to IU, where she could dance like crazy!


Have never been able to find out if she was a Red Stepper like my friends Gail Amster and Terri Kearns, who were ridiculously talented dancers.)

Ironically, Megan interned with Tom Skilling at WGN-TV in Chicago and at WRTV in Indy, while I was supposed to intern at Channel 10 down here in the summer of 1981.


That is, until Prof. Don Agostino, a Telecom prof I'd always enjoyed and possibly the then-Dept. Chair, pulled the plug on me.

He told the station's personnel director that though it was a big coup for me to snag a position at the best TV news station in the state -and a Post-Newsweek station at that, which opened up great possibilities for doing something in Washington the following summer- the fact that I was going to be a junior rather than already one, meant that IU wouldn't allow me to accept the internship position,.
Despite her trying to reason with him, since she'd enjoyed success with other IU students in the past at other stations she worked at, and she and I seemed very simpatico, Prof. Agostino said no.
I was devastated.

Megan's photo from the Local10.com website. Trust me, it's not PhotoShop, it's just that Megan's an especially good-looking Hoosier!

And then reality interrupted in the form of a small boat with enormous hopes and aspirations, and this area became caught up in a drama that's never really been resolved to anyone's complete satisfaction, certainly not South Florida's frustrated Haitian exile community, which began to grow to large numbers while I was growing up down here in the 1970's in North Miami Beach.

(My fifth-grade home room teacher at Fulford Elementary in North Miami Beach was Anthony Simon, a wonderfully enthusiastic and encouraging first-generation Haitian-American, who was always one of the most popular teachers in school, despite the fact that he taught science, not always every eleven-year old's favorite subject.)

It did prove yet another opportunity for local Miami TV stations to show their chops while ad libbing, always a dicey proposition in the best of times.

Given my longstanding preference for Local10 anyway, because of Michael Putney and Glenna Milberg's consistently top-notch professional performances, and the so-so performance of their news competitors at other stations in not only covering the story, but putting this in perspective in a way that was different from the connect-the-dots interviews with "the usual suspects," I think Channel 10 once again did by far the most complete job for the entire day.

At 6:30 p.m., ABC Evening News with Charlie Gibson even picked up on Michael's slightly incredulous query about where exactly was DHS in all this, in this case, the U.S. Coast Guard's seemingly obliviousness to the approaching craft.
________________________
Miami Herald
March 29th, 2007
Desperate trip was a journey to futility
By Fred Grimm

The numbers don't calculate: 102 people stuffed into a wooden sloop the size of a Biscayne Bay day cruiser, sailing for 22 days and 800 miles through the Windward Passage.
So many. So far. It makes no sense. Until a key element is added to the formula.
Desperation was what sent these boat people on a round-trip journey to futility. Desperation explains why they made a mad run aboard a Haitian sloop built in another century to haul freight from one island port to another. It was never meant to carry human cargo. Never meant to sail far from Haiti. Its single mast was a rough-hewn tree trunk, slightly crooked, rigged with hemp ropes and tattered sails and desperate hopes.
The boat listed in the sand Wednesday on Hallandale Beach, testament to a reckless rage to reach Florida. And if anyone needed proof of the risk involved in such an adventure, the body of a passenger had washed ashore 300 yards south of the boat.
The drowned man was covered in a maroon blanket and strapped to a rescue board. Six Hallandale Beach firemen, like pallbearers in a wretched funeral, carried the body away. The dead man may be the only passenger allowed to stay.

MARCHED INTO BUSES
The surviving 101 were herded into the beach fire station, under the city's famed beach-ball water tower. Later, most of them were led out of the fire station in the most forlorn perp walk ever, before a gauntlet of cops and immigration officers and law-enforcement firepower out of proportion to the weary, dejected refugees filing meekly into the waiting buses.
They wrapped themselves in sheets. Some, inexplicably, had been provided blankets with the colors and sports logos of Florida State or North Carolina State universities. And they were off on the second leg of their unhappy journey. After a brief stay in a federal lockup, they will almost certainly be sent back to Haiti. Moments after they arrived, their official designation became deportees. All that misery? All for nothing.
The buses pulled away, leaving their sloop beached in the sand, still smelling of overloaded humanity. Anyone staring down from the condo towers or strolling along the shore was forced to contemplate the 800-mile distance between the brain and the heart when it comes to U.S. immigration policy.
It's one thing to accept that the U.S. can't simply throw open its doors to unfettered immigration (though some might argue that's an apt description of current policy).
But the notion of deporting the desperate refugees who survived a three-week journey on that rotting boat just hurts the soul.

BAFFLING POLICY
Any such landing on Florida's shores brings attention to the stark unfairness of the wet-foot, dry-foot preference lent to Cuban refugees. Though in today's anti-immigration climate, Washington's notion of fairness might mean deportation for Cubans, rather than leniency for Haitians.
Wednesday's landing came 25 years after another Haitian sailboat, the La Nativite, floundered in the waters off Broward County and 31 bodies washed ashore on Hillsboro Beach. Two were pregnant women so far along in their third trimester that the Broward medical examiner changed the official death toll to 33. It was the catastrophe that brought on the policy of interdicting would-be Haitian refugees at sea.
Interdiction staunched an exodus that had been bringing 1,500 refugees a month to Florida, many of them on primitive sailboats through dangerous waters.
In 1980, at the height of the exodus, lyrics to a popular song in Haiti proclaimed "the teeth of the shark are sweeter than Duvalier's hell.
"Duvalier's long gone, but the old sloop on Hallandale Beach tells how little life has changed on the island. The teeth of the shark, and the likelihood of deportation, even if you survive an 800-mile voyage, still seem sweeter than Haiti's hell.
_____________________________________
Miami Herald
March 29, 2007
HALLANDALE BEACH: A desperate landing, a plea for compassion - More than 100 Haitians came ashore in Hallandale Beach, prompting activists to protest the treatment of Haitian migrants
By Trenton Daniel and Kathleen McGrory

On Day 10, they ran out of food.
The 102 Haitians -- many bruised and scraped from the crowded conditions aboard their flimsy 40-foot sailboat -- endured their perilous journey for 12 more days with toothpaste and saltwater, all anyone had.
The famished migrants, 12 children among them, spotted the pre-dawn glint of Hallandale Beach's high-rise condos on Wednesday. As the boat lurched closer to land, some jumped off, sloshing through waves and staggering ashore.
'They were afraid, trembling and crying, 'Are they going to send me back?' " said Marie Erlande Steril, a North Miami councilwoman who said she helped interview migrants at a nearby fire station after they made it to shore. "They were complaining about how much they risked their lives."
Indeed, one man didn't make it, washing up dead on the sand. Paramedics pried a second loose from a shipboard rope and carried him to the beach on a stretcher.
The migrants told authorities they had spent 22 days aboard the vessel. Their landing spurred local Haitian leaders to protest what they say is unfair treatment of Haitian migrants, who typically are returned to their impoverished homeland.
The boat, with a tiny dinghy attached, left the northern coast of Haiti more than three weeks ago -- possibly from Port-de-Paix but most likely the island of La Tortue, officials said.
It landed around 7:30 a.m. Wednesday near Hallandale Beach Boulevard, behind a row of high-rise condos and hotels including the Westin Diplomat Resort & Spa, which dominates the shoreline in nearby Hollywood.
A crowd of hotel guests and condo dwellers quickly gathered. Wielding binoculars, some stared down from balconies.
News choppers hovered overhead, broadcasting the scene into living rooms in a live reminder of 2002, when 220 Haitians splashed onto Miami's Rickenbacker Causeway.

DEPORTATION LOOMS
Unlike some other immigrants, Haitians are not eligible for Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, which temporarily suspends deportations and enables recipients to get work permits.
Haitian community activists from Pembroke Pines to Miami on Wednesday renewed their demand that the Bush administration grant undocumented Haitian migrants temporary immigration status so they can avoid deportation.
In Little Haiti, about a dozen Haitian leaders gathered Wednesday afternoon to decry the wet-foot/dry-foot policy, which requires most migrants picked up at sea to be repatriated, But the policy allows Cubans who make it to land apply for residency. Others often are sent back.
"It's unsafe and unfair to send any Haitians back to their country," said Marleine Bastien, executive director of Haitian Women of Miami. "There is no rule of law to speak of.
"No decision has been made on where Wednesday's migrants will be detained, said Barbara Gonzalez, a Miami spokeswoman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. She noted they could be housed anywhere in the country.
U.S. Rep. Kendrick B. Meek wrote letters to Julie Myers, the head of ICE, and to Michael Rozos, the agency's field office director in Florida, asking that the migrants not be sent to detention centers outside South Florida.

DRAMATIC LANDING
Early Wednesday's scene was one of desperation and drama.
The boat was run-down, with its sail tattered and its blue and white paint chipped.
"The vessel was obviously unseaworthy and grossly overloaded," said Coast Guard Petty Officer Jennifer Johnson. "Nobody should have embarked on a voyage of that length on a vessel like that."
Before the sailboat reached land, a few passengers jumped into the water and swam several hundred yards to shore. A local lifeguard waded in to help.
Those who remained onboard crowded the deck and watched -- until the sailboat ran aground about half an hour later. That unleashed a mad scramble through waist-deep water.
At that point, police, fire rescue and Coast Guard personnel arrived. Ambulances rushed in.
"It was intense," said Hugo Paez, who ran down to the beach with his camera. "You could tell they really wanted to come to this country."
All told, Hallandale Beach Fire Rescue ushered 101 migrants to a firehouse at Hallandale Beach Boulevard and State Road A1A; the man who died was covered with a maroon blanket and taken away on a stretcher. The survivors were given food and water, said Andrew Casper, a police spokesman.
Dozens of migrants, many draped in white blankets, a few in camouflage, crowded into the firetruck bay.

IN POOR CONDITION

"Some of them looked very, very bad," said Kenol Obnis, a Diplomat hotel waiter who rushed to the firehouse after he saw the boat from a fourth-floor window. Bruises marked the backs of some, he said.
Steril, the North Miami councilwoman and a native of Haiti, also pitched in at the firehouse after seeing the dramatic landing at home on TV.
Steril's cellphone enabled migrant Jean Monestime to call his half-brother Ricardo Francois, a Hollywood delivery driver. The brothers had not seen each other since Francois made a 2001 trip to Port-de-Paix.
"He told me he's here, he didn't die," Francois, 43, said outside the firehouse, waiting to catch a glimpse of his sibling. "I don't know what they're going to do to him."
Seven men and four women were taken to the hospital, with three listed in serious condition. Others were dehydrated and weak from hunger, police said.
Police and paramedics later escorted the remaining migrants onto large passenger buses, some bearing U.S. Department of Homeland Security insignias. The migrants were taken to the Border Patrol facility in Pembroke Pines.
Not all boarded the bus.
Police officers were seen isolating one man, taking him to an underground parking garage.
"Sa ou gen?!" Obnis yelled in Creole, meaning, "What's the matter?!"
The man didn't respond and vanished into the garage.
Onlookers suspected the man may have been singled out as the ship's captain, but a Border Patrol spokesman said authorities had not found that person.
"I do not believe the captain has been positively identified," said Victor Colón, a spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

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