They are all but nameless, at least for now. Of the 27 Haitians deported to Port-au-Prince late last month by the Obama administration, only one's name has been publicly released -- and that was because he died shortly after arriving back in Haiti.
Nonetheless, the January 22 death of 34-year-old Wildrick Guerrier has sent shock waves through this country's Haitian communities. And nowhere has it hit harder than here in Miami, the home of 13 of the deportees -- and the nation's largest Haitian American population.
"The community is outraged," said Haitian-American activist Marleine Bastien. "The news that Guerrier died in Haiti has been on all Haitian radio (stations). The question has been: Why?"
On Wednesday, Guerrier's fiancé, Claudine Magloire, spoke at a press conference about his death from cholera-like symptoms.
"They are the cause of my husband's death," Magloire said. "If he hadn't been sent back (to Haiti), he would be standing here today."
Shortly after the conference, the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center released word that the federal government had suspended the deportations during Februrary. However, a Department of Homeland Security spokesperson told Riptide yesterday that the deportations would continue as planned.
The conflicting reports have left Miami's Haitian community confused but no less scared.
Mere Meregne Longchamps, the wife of another Haitian detainee awaiting deportation in Louisiana, said she was "terrified" of what would happen to her husband if he was also sent to a Port-au-Prince jail, where cholera is now rampant.
Bastien, who ran unsuccessfully for U.S. House District 17 last fall and runs Fanm Ayisyen Nan Miyami (FANM, or "Haitian Women of Miami"), described the effect of Guerrier's death at the press conference. "We at FANM have been getting calls all week from family members who have their sons and a few daughters detained in Louisiana," she said. "They heard that one of the detainees died and they are freaking out. And they have reason to freak out."
She said she and other community and immigration activists felt betrayed by the Obama administration, which had suspended the deportation of Haitian convicts for more than a year since the January 12, 2010 earthquake that killed 300,000 on the island.
"We had a meeting at the White House on January 26 and we stated clearly our position against the deportations to Haiti," Bastien added angrily. "We told them what would happen. We told them clearly. The officers at the highest level of DHS were there and they told us that no one would be reported that no one would be deported to Haiti until they engaged the Haitian community in a dialogue. They lied. They lied to us. They lied and a Haitian dead."
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