Migrant crisis: Group asks feds for equal rights for Haitians

Advocates gathered outside a Haitian Advocacy Office in Miami to compel immigration officials to release more information on the 20 migrants who arrived on Hillsboro Beach earlier this week.

08/27/2014 1:31 PM

08/27/2014 6:42 PM

Clutching a poster with photos of her missing cousin, Murille Florvi joined a group of Haitian advocates Wednesday to ask immigration officials to release the names of the 20 migrants who arrived on Hillsboro Beach earlier in the week.

Holding signs and chanting “Stop deportation now” and “Free our children,” the group also begged for freedom and equality for all immigrants.

“We need to create a path where refugees can come legally,” said Haitian Women of Miami’s Executive Director Marleine Bastien, outside the Miami office. “They need to be afforded their right to due process.”

At the time, federal authorities said there were 19 survivors, five of whom were children, but did not release the names.

An immigration and customs spokesman, Nestor Yglesias, said Wednesday that his agency is not releasing any additional information “due to the fact that is part of an ongoing investigation.”

In a statement, Yglesias said: “U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is treating the Haitian nationals who arrived on Monday morning as any other irregular maritime arrival and they will be granted full due process.”

But Bastien said people have the right to know if their loved ones were on board.

“They are being held as prisoners,” she said.

Florvi said her cousin, Angela Celestin, a mother of three, had been missing for 12 days and may have been part of the group that came ashore at about 2:15 a.m. Monday in what authorities believe was a smuggling operation..

“We just need to know,” she said, fighting back tears.

Florvi feared that her cousin was the one person in the group who didn’t make it to shore and died in the surf.

The group used the recent arrival to push once more for the Obama administration to approve a family reunification parole program for Haitians. Thousands of Haitians, many of them children, have already been approved to join relatives in the United States but are in limbo in Haiti. Advocates say their fate can be decided by an executive order by President Barack Obama.

Alexis Caputo, who is local artist and activist, said she participated Wednesday because it’s “a human rights issue.”

“The loss of life enroute to freedom or even being detained is insanity,” she said. “People come for the American dream and they get a nightmare.”

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