About 800 Haitians and their supporters rallied in front of of the headquarters of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on the corner of 79th Street and Biscayne Boulevard in Miami to
demand the immediate liberation of 101 Haitian refugees who landed at nearby Hallandale Beach on March 28th.
Most of the refugees are being held in an immigration holding center in Pompano Beach and are threatened with immediate deportation back to Haiti. The refugees spent three weeks at sea on a leaky, open sailboat, including 12 days without food.
Dozens of speakers lambasted U.S. policy as racist and hypocritical for automatically deporting Haitian refugees while Cuban refugees are routinely released into the community and granted asylum.
Many of the speakers called on the U.S. Congress to grant Haitian refugees Temporary Protected Status. TPS waives immigration restrictions on the victims of natural disasters and political upheaval, both of which Haiti has experienced in recent years. It has been granted and renewed in recent years to refugees from Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Burundi, Sudan, Liberia, and Somalia.
Called and led by the Haitian community organization Veye Yo, the spirited demonstration featured a speech by the Rev. Gérard Jean-Juste, who led Veye Yo and Haitian Refugee Center during the 1980s when the Haitian refugee crisis reached its zenith.
During a demonstration that ran from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m., some 800 people rallied in front of Miami’s principal USCIS service center in North Miami.
The Rev. Gerard Jean-Juste, a pioneer of Haitian refugee activism in Miami and former Haitian political prisoner, told the crowd that there was not a "wet foot" and "dry foot" policy as Washington claimed but a "black foot" and "white foot" one. "Black foot, white foot, we are all human beings," he said.