Tuesday, April 25, 2017

“You Live Under Fear”: by Darlene Dubuisson and Mark Schuller

by Darlene Dubuisson and Mark Schuller

“With TPS, it’s like you live under fear,” thirty-something aspiring nurse Michaëlle explained. “You don’t know what’s going to happen. I live with stress because of that.”

            Michaëlle’s situation just got worse on Apr. 20, when Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly declared that Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for 50,000 Haitian people living in the U.S. would be over.

            After the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, President Obama granted temporary relief status to undocumented Haitians who had arrived in the U.S. before 2011. Given the slow pace of recovery efforts and subsequent disasters – notably the cholera epidemic that has killed over 10,000 and counting, and Hurricane Matthew that hit Haiti last October – TPS has been extended several times. The latest TPS is set to expire on Jul. 22, 2017.

            In essence, the Trump administration’s policy would amount to kicking out 50,000 people who have, despite their fear, put their faith in the U.S. government to legalize, like fifty-something child care provider Wideline. She recalls that “[We were told to] tell all fellow Haitians they don’t need to fear because they are going to give Haitians who are illegal in this country papers so they can work.”

            Wideline specifically acknowledged fear that TPS would become, in effect, a pipeline to deportation: “people spread fear, arguing that the papers were so that the U.S. government can identify Haitians living in the country in order to deport them. And this is why some people didn’t do it.”

            Given the switch in administration, TPS, like registering for DACA for many undocumented Mexican families, has meant that it places a target on people’s heads. TPS, like DACA, makes people visible to the State and thus more “deportable,” like undocumented rights activist Jeanette Vizguerra, who sought sanctuary in a Denver church this February.

            While this particular threat to the Haitian American community has gone largely unreported, it represents a betrayal for some. Unlike Mexican Americans, specifically targeted by then-candidate Trump, Haitian Americans, particularly in Florida, were actively courted by Republican strategists and Breitbart News.

            In 2000, the fate of the free world hung on 537 dimpled chads in the Sunshine State, home to an estimated 424,000 people of Haitian descent per the 2010 Census. This number is low not only because of undocumented but because people have to self-select as “Haitian.”

            Many Haitian community leaders and organizations were solid and early backers of Obama, the country’s first African American president. Compared to the Cuban community in South Florida, the Haitian Diaspora wields less political power because of the lack of dual citizenship. As the first and only slave revolt to beget a free nation, Haiti has long symbolized Black pride. As scholars such as Nina Glick Schiller and Georges Fouron and others argue, the Haitian Diaspora keeps their Haitian citizenship while sending remittances, representing a third of the country’s Gross Domestic Product.

            Following the earthquake, organizations within the Haitian Diaspora such as the Haitian Congress to Fortify Haiti pushed for both TPS in the U.S. and dual citizenship in Haiti. Both were won in 2011.

            Why would this solid Democratic voting bloc help push the needle towards a candidate who openly expressed hostility toward immigrants?

            While the Haitian community is large and diverse, and therefore complex, an important factor was the role the Clintons – the “king and queen of Haiti” – played following the earthquake.

            On Apr. 11, the United Nations announced the end of its controversial military force. MINUSTAH belatedly and partially apologized for infecting Haiti with cholera, but it was too little, too late. And the UN is still attempting to dodge responsibility for a rash of sexual assault cases. The Clintons were involved in no-bid contracts for shoddy homes, high-end tourism, an apparel factory outside of Port-au-Prince, and gold prospecting.

            Some in the Haitian community might have forgiven this disaster capitalism if Haiti was “built back better” as Bill Clinton promised.

            It wasn’t.

            However, at least in the capital of Port-au-Prince, an argument can be made for at least some economic institutions and physical infrastructure being rebuilt. Much of this is an unrecognized initiative by Haitian people themselves, such as in Canaan, an informal settlement created to house the displaced after the earthquake.

            Following Trump’s election, proponents for ending TPS suggest that Haiti has recovered enough to support the return of these undocumented.

            It seems that yet again when officials speak of Haiti, they mean Port-au-Prince, where recovery efforts have been targeted. But Port-au-Prince is not Haiti. And Haitian TPS holders have origins all over the country, including the Grand’Anse that is still reeling from Hurricane Matthew. But people living outside of the capital are moun andeyò, “outsiders.” As the lackluster international response suggested, these people who live far from the NGO offices and high-end hotels don’t count. Their lives don’t matter.

            Like many community leaders here legally, people like Michaëlle who don’t have legal status define both as “home.” Professors Shannon Gleeson and Kate Griffith at Cornell University led a study of TPS holders in NYC. This research documents that Haitian TPS holders tend to have significant ties to this country, not the least having had children and raising them here.

            Of the 30 respondents in the Cornell study so far, most report being in the U.S. for decades, particularly beginning in the late 1980s, 1990s and early 2000s. Being Haitian in the 1980s was to endure ridicule and stigma, as Haiti was incorrectly blamed for AIDS. U.S. actions like the destruction of local pigs, rural bank accounts, as well as free-trade policies it imposed destroyed Haiti’s economy, triggering this migration in the first place. These actions benefitted large U.S. agribusiness and other corporations.

            The people in the Cornell study tend to have children here, and some report having left children back in Haiti. Many people report having worked in the undocumented labor force, but after receiving TPS they could apply for better paying jobs, albeit still below minimum wage. But these jobs require that their TPS be current, which costs $400 every eighteen months.

            Ending TPS would cause a deep wound in the Haitian community, ripping apart families, and punishing people who endure sub-minimum wage jobs because they believed the government would be fair.

            Especially because of the causes of the migration – not to mention exploitative working conditions –benefit U.S. companies in the first place, justice demands that the U.S. own its accountability to these temporary status holders.

            But TPS also affirms humanity and human decency. Michaëlle reported “I feel grateful because I am in this country. I have the ability to go to school and to work.”

            Michaëlle, like other TPS holders from Haiti, Honduras, and El Salvador, contribute to this country through their labor and the pursuit of their dreams.

            The least we can do is act, before the final ruling on TPS is handed down. There is a petition calling for Secretary Kelly to renew TPS.

The original version of this article was published in the Huffington Post. Darlene Dubuisson is a PhD Candidate in the joint Applied Anthropology program at Columbia University. Her research interests include black intellectualism, academic culture, diaspora, and transnationalism. Mark Schuller is Associate Professor at Northern Illinois University and affiliate at the State University of Haiti. Schuller has 30 scholarly publications on NGOs, globalization, disasters, and gender in Haiti, and wrote or co-edited seven books.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Pleading Guilty, Guy Philippe Cuts Deal with U.S. Attorney for Lighter Sentence

by Kim Ives (Haiti Liberte)
Former Haitian paramilitary leader and Senator-elect Guy Philippe sealed a plea bargain today with the U.S. Attorney’s office to get a lighter sentence in return for pleading guilty to just one count of money laundering.

In return, the U.S. government dropped its other two charges of “Conspiracy to Import Cocaine into the United States,” which carries a sentence of 30 years to life in prison, and “Engaging in Transactions Derived from Unlawful Activity,” which carries a 10 year sentence.

The charge to which Philippe, 49, pleaded guilty – “Conspiracy to Launder Monetary Instruments” – carries a 20 year maximum sentence, but as part of the deal, prosecutors recommended Philippe be sentenced to only nine years.

Judge Cecilia Altonaga will set Philippe’s sentence in Miami on Jul. 5, 2017 at 8:30 a.m.. As in most plea deals, she will likely follow the U.S. Attorney’s recommendation.

Parole cannot be granted in federal cases, but the government can give Philippe a 15% reduction in his prison term for “good conduct,” meaning he could be out in seven and a half years or 2024.

The hearing to change Philippe’s Jan. 13 plea of “not guilty” took place in Miami on Mon., Apr. 24 at 2:30 p.m. and took all of 21 minutes. In addition to the defendant, in attendance were lawyers Mark A. Irish, Lynn M. Kirkpatrick, and Andy Camacho for the U.S. Attorney’s office, and Alan Shelley Ross and Zeljka Bozanic representing Philippe.

“We got a call from the U.S. Attorney’s office quite recently, proposing a plea bargain,” said Ross. “We were prepared to go to trial, but if you go to trial and you lose, you get whacked.”

Judge Cecilia Altonaga will set Philippe’s sentence in Miami on Jul. 5, 2017 at 8:30 a.m.. As in most plea deals, she will likely follow the U.S. Attorney’s recommendation.

In March, Judge Altonaga rejected acting U.S. Attorney Benjamin Greenberg’s motion in limine to bar evidence that might show that the money Philippe laundered came from “the United States government or people authorized to work on behalf of the United States.”

Asked why the government had initiated a deal, the U.S. Attorney’s Special Counsel Sarah Schall told Haïti Liberté “the government won’t comment on plea negotiations.”

Asked if Altonaga’s March ruling could have motivated the U.S. government to make a deal, Mr. Ross was noncommittal. “It’s difficult to say,” he said. “They understood, as everyone did, my client’s history of participating in the coup against Aristide, in which the U.S. had a role. It has been discussed as part of this case, and there may have been concern that things might leak out that they didn’t want.”

But Ross suspected that “the age of the case played an important part in their decision” to make a deal because “the case is old – dating back to 1999 to 2003. It’s difficult to remount the effort because some people who were in jail are no longer in jail, and it’s difficult to get certain records and witnesses.”

“I don’t care what the motive is,” Ross concluded. “I just care about the result.”

To get the deal, Philippe had to agree to the U.S. government’s account of the crime that he committed, known as the “factual proffer,” a copy of which has been obtained by Haïti Liberté.

In the two-page document, signed by Philippe and his lawyers, he agrees to have “knowingly used his position as a high-ranking Haitian National Police officer to provide protection for [the] shipments of drugs and drug proceeds into Haiti in exchange for cash payments. Specifically, beginning in or around June 1999 and continuing until in or around April 2003, Philippe and others were paid in Haiti from the proceeds of the cocaine sales that occurred in Miami, Florida and elsewhere in the United States. Those bulk-cash proceeds would be smuggled from the United States to Haiti, and Philippe would be paid a portion of the proceeds.”

Philippe further admits that he “and his wife maintained a joint banking account at First Union National Bank in Miami, Florida. Between June 1999 and December 2002, Philippe knowingly wired over $376,000 in U.S. Dollars derived from the sale of cocaine from Haiti and Ecuador to this First Union National Bank account under the names of other people. Philippe also knowingly arranged for over $70,000 in U .S. Dollars of drug proceeds to be deposited into the account. Each of these cash deposits was made in amounts less than $10,000 to avoid the reporting requirements.”

Philippe further agrees that between June 1999 and April 2003, as he was waging war against former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s government, he received between $1.5 to $3.5 million “in bribe payments from drug traffickers, knowing that the payments constituted proceeds of cocaine trafficking.”

He then “shared the drug proceeds he collected with Haitian National Police officials and other security personnel to ensure their continued support for future drug shipments arriving into Haiti, to purchase a residence in Broward County, Florida, and to support himself and his family in the United States.”

In the plea agreement between the U.S. and Philippe, it is stipulated that “the Court may impose a statutory maximum term of imprisonment of up to 20 years, followed by a term of supervised release of up to 3 years” as well as “a fine of up to $500,000 or twice the value of the property involved in the transactions, whichever is greater, and may order forfeiture and restitution.”

From 2001 to 2004, Guy Philippe led the Front for National Liberation and Reconstruction (FLRN), a force of a few hundred paramilitary “rebels” mostly based in the Dominican Republic, in cross border raids against Aristide’s government, which was finally overthrown, with the help of a U.S. SEAL team, in a Feb. 29, 2004 coup.

In November 2005, a U.S. grand jury issued a three count indictment against Philippe for drug trafficking and money laundering, but he holed up in the remote Haitian coastal town of Pestel, where he eluded four raids by U.S. and Haitian agents over the course of 11 years.

After a deadly May 2016 attack on a Haitian police station in Les Cayes, the government of interim President Jocelerme Privert put out an arrest warrant for Philippe, who was accused of masterminding the raid. The warrant provoked several radio and internet tirades by Philippe, daring the Haitian police to come and arrest him in his stronghold.

After being elected Senator for the Grand’Anse department in November 2016, Philippe felt cocky enough to make a victory tour to Port-au-Prince in early January 2017. A special Haitian police unit, with back-up from U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), was monitoring his movements and arrested him outside a radio station in the capital on Jan. 5. The same day, the Haitian police turned Philippe over to U.S. agents who flew him to Miami.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Flashpoints Radio: Special Haiti Episode Hosted by Kevin Pina.

Today on Flashpoints: 
      The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s current 18-month designation of Haiti for temporary protected status(TPS) expires on July 22nd will affect 58,000 Haitians who arrived in the US prior to January 12, 2011, one year after the earthquake. The Trump administration is signaling it will not renew TPS which will trigger their forced repatriation back to Haiti. 
     Then, we look at the ongoing moves of PHTK ruling clique in Haiti to restore the once dreaded Haitian military. 
    Finally, we talk with a Haitian political analyst about the current situation there.  Listen to the entire show here.

Friday, April 14, 2017

In Violation of Haiti’s Constitution: After MINUSTAH, UN Seeks to Keep an Armed Force in Haiti

by Kim Ives (Haiti Liberte)

The main thing you need to know about the Apr. 11 speech to the UN Security Council of Sandra Honoré, the head of the United Nations military occupation force in Haiti, is that she is not talking about a complete pull-out but a “transition.”

            MINUSTAH, or the UN Mission to Stabilize Haiti, is currently composed of about 3,200 soldiers and police officers, who cost $346 million this past year. First deployed in June 2004 (supposedly for only six months), the force’s current mandate ends on Apr. 15.

            In a Mar. 16 report, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres proposed that MINUSTAH be renewed for a final six-month mandate, ending Oct. 15. However, this force would be replaced by “a smaller peacekeeping operation with concentrated focus on the rule of law and police development,...[and] human rights monitoring,” Honoré said.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Former Haitian First Lady Visits Detroit with U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters

LISTEN HERE to an interview with former First Lady of Haiti Mildred T. Aristide.

Few countries in the world have faced as much hardship as Haiti. The Haitian people had been forced to deal with one disaster after another, whether caused by nature or by human hands.

It is a country that reminds us that inequality and institutional racism, subjects that are talked about frequently on Detroit Today, are not confined to the borders of the United States.

Former first lady of Haiti, Mildred T. Aristide, joins Congresswomen Maxine Waters Friday night in Detroit for a discussion about race at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History at 7 p.m.

Aristide joins Stephen Henderson on Detroit Today to talk about Haiti’s people and history.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Prison Aid to Haiti for Captive Slave Labor

by Dady Chery (Haiti Liberte)

Haiti’s incarceration rate of roughly 100 prisoners per 100,000 citizens in 2016 was the lowest in the Caribbean. Nevertheless, there is a systematic campaign underway for more prisons. Canada and Norway have each given one prison to Haiti. Thanks to prison aid from the United States, three additional prisons have been inaugurated since 2016, and another is under construction.

            In the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Jamaica, and Cuba, the incarceration rates per 100,000 people in 2016 were 232, 350, 145, and 510, respectively. These numbers alone do not tell the whole story, because the large majority of Haiti’s prison population are pre-trial detainees, many of whom are members of Aristide’s administration, resisters against government abuses like land expropriation, or political protestors who have not been charged with a crime. If Haiti were to release them, the incarceration rate would drop to about 30 per 100,000, which is lower than in Norway, Sweden, or Japan. Furthermore, if we consider the fact that another group of incarcerated people are Haitian nationals who have lived as legal residents of the United States or Canada nearly all of their lives and committed crimes abroad, then the real incarceration rate of Haitians drops to one of the lowest in the world.

Haitian Cholera Victims Demonstrate for MINUSTAH Departure, Reparations

by Kim Ives (Haiti Liberte)

On Mar. 29, 2017, the 30th anniversary of the popular referendum which adopted the 1987 Haitian Constitution, about 200 demonstrators rallied and marched from Port-au-Prince’s Champ de Mars to the Parliament to demand the immediate withdrawal of the United Nations Mission to Stabilize Haiti (MINUSTAH), reparations for the victims of MINUSTAH-imported cholera, and respect for the Constitution’s nationalist articles.

            Some 3,200 soldiers and police officers are MINUSTAH’s armed component, whose mandate expires Apr. 15. Almost 13 years after MINUSTAH’s deployment in June 2004, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres in a Mar. 16 report. proposed to the UN Security Council a final six-month mandate with “a staggered but complete withdrawal” of those forces by Oct. 15. However, in reality, the withdrawal would not be complete.

            Guterres proposed that a new mission of 295 UN policemen remain in Haiti to oversee elections and ensure “political stability” and “good governance.”

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