Florida Bishops Ask Bush to Free Haitian Detainees

Detention "Indefensible," Prelates Say

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MIAMI, Florida, JAN. 9, 2003 (Zenit.org).- Florida's Catholic bishops called on U.S. President George W. Bush to order the release of more than 200 Haitians who swarmed ashore from a foundering boat last October.



The migrants have been detained after making a dangerous voyage from their improverished island nation. The incident was broadcast live on television.

"The continued detention and denial of adequate and appropriate access to legal representation is both indefensible and inequitable,'' the bishops said in statement posted on the Archdiocese of Miami Web site.

"On October 29, 2002," the statement said, "a teetering vessel from Haiti overloaded with the souls of hundreds approached our land and ran aground on our shores. The mothers who lowered children clad in their Sunday best into the murky waters below were driven by the desire of every mother -- to see her children safe, secure and able to realize their dignity as full human persons. For more than two months now, these 228 Haitian asylum seekers have suffered the humiliation of continued detention, separated from their awaiting families and community sponsors. ...

"The accelerated hearing schedule dictated by the Executive Office of Immigration Review denies detainees the fundamental due process right to adequate legal counsel as guaranteed to all who set foot in our nation."

"As we mark the U.S. Catholic Church's observance of National Migration Week," the statement continued, "we are reminded once again that we are a nation based on a delicate balance of laws and faith. We call on President Bush to apply the same standard set for all others who seek political asylum to the detained Haitians, and their children as well."

Signers of the statement included Miami Archbishop John Favalora.