marlienebastien_fc.jpgVialine Jean-Paul  was ordered to report to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)to be deported to Haiti at 9 a.m. Feb. 9 , 2009.

No, she is not a new arrival, nor has she committed  any crime.   She arrived in this country in 1992 after the first Coup D’Etat that toppled former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. 

She applied for political asylum, but she was ordered deported nonetheless. Married to a U.S. citizen , she has a very sick 7-year-old daughter named Angela who is in and out of the hospital.  Yet, she  received a bag and baggage letter from ICE  to report for deportation.

What will happen to little Angela?  Who will take care of her?  Her father, Journel Timot, works two jobs to support his family. One of those jobs is as a bus driver for Miami-Dade County Public Schools.

“I leave home at 4:30 a.m. every day,” he said.

En route to the reporting center at 8:15, Ms. Jean Paul received a call from her deportation officer.  She was saved for now; she was allowed to stay.
Shocked, they pulled over onto a curb.   Her lawyer , Cheryl  Little, said at a press conference recently, “Once they pulled over, I knew that something happened.  We were all so emotional; we started jumping up and down.  We have saved a life today!”

Randy McGrorty , a co-counsel for Catholic Charities, added “We thank DHS (the U.S. Department of Homeland Security) for doing the right thing in this case, but as others already mentioned, we have thousands more in this situation. Something needs to be done in their favor.”

Up to 8:15 that morning, it appeared as if Mike Rozos, the deportation chief, could not care less.  He denied a request for a stay of deportation after 5:30 on Friday, Feb. 6, sending advocates  into a weekend-long frenzy.

Letters from U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek, and U.S. representatives Lincoln and Mario Diaz-Balart did not seem to sway him.  A slew of doctors from Harvard Medical School and Jackson Memorial Hospital wrote to express grave concerns about little Angela’s health.

All the efforts seemed hopeless, and then the call came! As I always thought, Mr. Rozos could use discretion if he wanted. By doing so this morning, he’s allowing a loving mother to take care of her sick child. It’s the humane thing to do and we thank him for it.

The State Department re-issued an advisory claiming that Haiti is too dangerous and urged citizens to stay away from the island.  The advisory, dated
January 2009, states, “The State Department warns U.S. citizens of the risks of travel to Haiti and recommends deferring non-essential travel until further notice.  This travel warning replaces that of April 30, 2008 and is being issued to remind American citizens of the destructive impact of a series of hurricanes in 2008….”

So if Haiti is too dangerous for U.S. citizens, why are Haitians being deported there? Haitian President Rene Preval met with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last Thursday but failed to reiterate his request for Temporary Protected Status. TPS halts deportations and grants work permits for 12 to 18 months when natural disasters or political conditions make deportation unsafe.

When asked why there was this gross omission, Preval said he wanted to focus on one thing: “money.”

For one, demand la premature (Creole for “the request is premature.”) The U.S. is dealing with its own crisis right now.  Second, li kite manman , l’al tete grann (Creole for “he left the mother to breastfeed on the grandmother.” )

If he or his advisors were really serious, they should have lobbied for TPS. They should have lobbied for the Haitians to stay here and work! 

Haitians here sent $1.17 billion to Haiti last year.  This is several times more than what the U.S. contributes.  This money is also sent by the “diasporas” with no strings attached!  There are no fancy consultants to drain the very resources aimed at helping the poor!  

Shame on Preval and his advisers for failing to protect the interests of the hard-working and contributing immigrants.  Engra! (Creole for ungrateful).  
The mot d’ordre is Creole for taking matters into our own hands.

President Barack Obama is a high-tech fan.  Let’s put our cell phones to work.  Call it “texting for a cause.” How about it?  Send your texts, e-mails and Facebook messages to President Obama,, and ask him to stop deporting Haitians now!

It is in the United States’ best interest to keep these remittances flowing in Haiti.  They allow Haitians to stay home and participate in the rebuilding.  Time is running out for little children like Angela. 

U.S.-born Haitian children have to decide between staying here with one or no family member or facing death in disaster-ravaged Haiti!

This is too hard a choice for any child, Mr. President!  The time to act is now!

Aji, Aji Mesye Prezidan!  (Act, act, Mr. President!)

Marleine Bastien is the founder and executive director of Fanm Ayisyen Nan Miyami (FANM), or Haitian Women of Miami, Inc.