Haitian Migration Crisis Subject of Feb. 5 Conference in D.C.

WHAT: National Conference on the Current Haitian Migration Crisis, bringing together leading policymakers, analysts and advocates to develop constructive responses to an ongoing humanitarian crisis, which originates in Haiti and is compounded by U.S. treatment of Haitian asylum seekers. They are provided less protection than any other nationality seeking asylum.

Oct. 29, the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) detained more than 200 Haitian men, women and children who reached Florida. Nov. 13, the INS announced that all individuals who arrive illegally by sea would be detained and subjected to expedited removal procedures enacted by Congress in 1996.

Most of the Oct. 29 'boat group' - including unaccompanied children - remain in detention. Legal and humanitarian advocates are struggling to get sufficient access to these and others seeking safe haven from persecution, who often are rushed to immigration court before they adequately can formulate their claim.

WHEN AND WHERE: Wednesday, February 5, Washington, D.C. 8:45 a.m. - 12:30 p.m., Dirksen Senate Office Building, Room 138 12:30 - 2:00 p.m., United Methodist Building, 110 Maryland Ave. N.E.

SPONSOR: The international humanitarian aid agency Church World Service, providing services to Haitian asylum seekers for more than 40 years. HOST: Senator Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.)

SPEAKERS AND PANELISTS:
- Senator Kennedy.
- The Rev. John L. McCullough, Executive Director, Church World Service.
- Bishop Thomas Wenski, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
- Luigi Einaudi, Assistant General Secretary, Organization of American States.
- Bienaime Pierre-Luis, recent asylee from the Oct. 29 'boat group'
- Candace Jean, Catholic Charities Legal Services.
- Cheryl Little, Executive Director, Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center which in December was ordered to vacate its client meeting space inside Krome Detention Center.
- Haitian-Americans Edwidge Danicat, award-winning author, and Garcelle Beauvais-Nilon, star of 'NYPD Blue.'
- National Coalition for Haitian Rights' Dina Paul Parks (USA) and Pierre Esperance (Haiti).
- Joshua Sears, Bahamas Ambassador to the United States.
- Marleine Bastien, Haitian Women of Miami and Haitian American Grassroots Coalition.
- Steven Johnson, Heritage Foundation.
- Wendy Young, Women's Commission for Refugee Women and Children.

At the conference, two groups will release new reports on U.S. denial of protection for Haitians and conditions in Haiti.

By Albert H. Lee
chtoday_editor@chtoday.com