The Miami Herald
Tue, Nov. 30, 2004

U.S. expels Haitian trying to stay


David Joseph, the young Haitian migrant whose case for political asylum put U.S. immigration policy toward Haitians at the center of the national security debate, was deported to Haiti on Monday -- two years and one month after he arrived in South Florida.

Joseph, 20, was immediately jailed when he and 213 other migrants -- including his younger brother -- landed near the Rickenbacker Causeway on Oct. 29, 2002, in a boat that carried them from Haiti.

The landing made international headlines when television cameras captured the migrants' desperate attempt to evade authorities and remain in the United States by jumping overboard just offshore.

The other migrants were eventually sent back to Haiti, put in foster care or released after winning claims for political asylum.

Joseph is believed to have been held longer than any other noncriminal Haitian detainee at the Krome detention center in southwestern Miami-Dade.

''It's business as usual, and I think it's a human rights tragedy that our country is returning Haitians to Haiti at this time,'' said Candace Jean, the attorney for Catholic Charities Legal Services who represented both Joseph and his brother Daniel, who remains in foster care where his case is pending.

''The saddest thing is David suffered two years of prison in the United States. He should have been granted asylum from the start,'' Jean said.

Joseph argued that he should be allowed to remain here because backers of former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide singled out his father because of his politics and destroyed the family's home in Cap Haitien.

He also asked to be paroled while he fought his case.

Immigration authorities fought Joseph's requests for parole and asylum, and immigration judges usually agreed.

Even his one victory -- a ruling by the Board of Immigration Appeals that his claims should be sent back to an immigration judge for additional evidence to be heard -- was short-lived.

The BIA issued a final deportation order for Joseph on Oct. 8.

''Joseph was afforded his due process right under law and exhausted all possible legal avenues for relief,'' said Barbara Gonzalez, a spokeswoman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. ``The Board of Immigration Appeals issued a final order of removal for David Joseph, and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, as obligated by law, carried out the board's order this morning.''

Joseph was among 24 from South Florida who were deported to Haiti on Monday on a U.S. government airplane, Gonzalez said.

Jean, who was seeking to have Joseph's case reconsidered, said the U.S. government was cruel to deport Joseph when violence and instability reign in Haiti.

''This is a case our country used to rule that Haitians are a security risk to our nation, and we know that is absurd and that is the law,'' she said, referring to an April 2003 decision by outgoing U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft involving Joseph.

Separately, Ashcroft used Joseph's request for bond to affirm that the attorney general had the last word in such matters. He said the attorney general has ``extremely broad discretion in determining whether or not to release an alien on bond.''

An immigration judge agreed to release Joseph on $2,500 bond while his request for asylum was weighed, but Ashcroft overruled the judge, and the Board of Immigration Appeals backed Ashcroft.

Citing possible links between Haiti and terrorism, and fears of a mass migration from Haiti to the United States, Ashcroft said Haitians should not be freed while they file their claims to remain in the United States.

Jean said she fears for Joseph, whose family in Haiti disappeared shortly after his arrival in South Florida. In a telephone call to her late Monday, Jean said he told her ``he was taken with shackles on his arm, his leg and his waist until he reached Haiti.''

``He is scared. He doesn't have anybody.''