Haitians demand inclusion in immigration amnesty plan
Leaders say President Bush's proposal should include more than Mexicans.
BY RICHARD BRAND
South Florida's Haitian activists have a message for President Bush: Pa bliyé travay Ayisyen -- Don't forget the Haitian workers.
Representatives from 25 Haitian organizations gathered Saturday in Miami-Dade County to demand the Bush administration include Haitians in an immigration amnesty plan that could bring legal status to millions of undocumented Mexican workers.
``We are not playing. We want to be included,'' said Marleine Bastien, executive director of Haitian Women of Miami. ``Haitians contribute to the social and economic fabric of this country and should be included.''
Bush will meet with Mexican President Vicente Fox on Sept. 5 in Washington. They are expected to discuss immigration reforms and a guest worker program.
Haitian groups are planning a protest that day in front of the Miami office of the Immigration and Naturalization Service.
A protest in Washington is planned for Sept. 25. That protest will include groups representing other nationalities.
It is still unclear whether the proposed amnesty plan would apply only to Mexican immigrants.
At Saturday's news conference, Haitian leaders said they cheer the Mexican amnesty proposal but insisted it should include newcomers from other nations.
``The American people is a just society,'' said North Miami Vice Mayor Ossmann Desir. ``All undocumented immigrants should be treated with equality and dignity, not only one group.''
Opponents of the amnesty plan, such as the Washington-based Federation of American Immigration Reform, say the Bush proposal panders to Hispanic voters and that legalization rewards lawbreakers. Calls to the group's headquarters weren't returned Saturday.
A poll released this week, surveying 1,000 adults, showed that 62 percent of Americans would support a plan that would legalize the status of immigrants who can prove they have been living in the United States, working at a job and paying taxes.
The survey, conducted jointly by Republican and Democratic polling firms, was commissioned by the Services Employees International Union and Catholic Healthcare West.
Haitian workers said limiting amnesty to Mexicans would be an insult to all other nationalities.
``We are a good people who work hard, no different from Mexico,'' said Marie Sylvain, 43, who works at a nursing home.
``We are standing up to tell George Bush to consider all immigrants.''