Diaspora

As hundreds of Haitian refugees arrive in Massachusetts from natural disasters and social unrest, state gover – MassLive.com

As more than 100 families arrived in Massachusetts in recent weeks seeking safety from natural disasters and political unrest in Haiti, many have been left without basic necessities including housing and medical care, while some are even facing deportation.
And as local grassroots movements are working to provide food, clothing, housing and legal assistance, according to the Boston Globe, the federal government is working to send people back to Haiti.
“The federal government has abdicated its responsibility of providing much-needed humanitarian protection and other support for the Haitian refugees,” Iván Espinoza-Madrigal, executive director for Lawyers for Civil Rights said, according to the Globe.
Meanwhile, a former state representative from Haiti, Marie St. Fleur, reportedly said that Massachusetts needs to act immediately to help support refugees.
“We are facing a humanitarian crisis that does not need to happen,” she told the Globe. “We are better than this in Massachusetts.”
Haiti has been the site of a series of different crises in recent years.
In August, an earthquake struck the island and killed more than 2,200 people just weeks after the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in July. Haiti was also hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, being the last country in the Americas to receive COVID vaccines and less than 1% of the country was vaccinated as of last week, according to the Globe.
Haiti also faced two more natural disasters, an earthquake that killed more than 220,000 people in 2010, and damage caused by Hurricane Matthew in 2016.
Geralde Gabeau, the executive director of Immigrant Family Services Institute on Blue Hill Avenue told the Globe that the organization has relied on staff and community members to assist more than 100 Haitian families, which include pregnant people and children who arrived from the Mexico border.
Additionally, Massachusetts residents are opening up their homes to refugees helping provide food, clothes and diapers to families.
“People opened up their hearts and said, ‘Yes, I am willing to help you because I know that you have been going through so much,’” Gabeau told the Globe.
Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley, who represents Boston and surrounding communities, said she is working closely with the Haitian community to support people on the island and in Massachusetts.
Pressley, the co-chair of the House of Representatives’ Haiti Caucus and a member of the House Oversight Committee, is calling on an investigation into the “the horrendous abuse and mass deportation of Haitian migrants,” the Globe reported.
The Massachusetts congresswoman is also asking the Biden administration to stop using a provision that allows people to be expelled from the border without giving them a chance to apply for asylum. She is calling on a halt to deportations and for humanitarian parole for Haitian families in order to apply for asylum, according to the Boston Globe.
Rev. Dieufort Fleurissaint president and executive director of True Alliance Center which words to provide support to the Haitian community told the Globe that returning to the country is, “a death sentence, basically.”
“This is very serious, when you take into consideration the unsafe conditions of Haiti,” Fleurissaint reportedly said. “Those who are already here couldn’t go back to Haiti.”
Yusufi Vali, director of Boston’s immigrant advancement office, is calling for greater action from the federal and state governments, as well as local groups to support assistance efforts.
“The recent Haitian arrivals are extremely vulnerable families, and we’re working with nonprofit organizations to support them,” Vali told the Globe. “But we really need the federal and state governments as well as philanthropic organizations to step up. We cannot do this alone.”
However, a spokesperson for the Executive Office of Health and Human Services in Massachusetts said that there is a process where states are contacted by federal authorities to request assistance with housing refugees, according to the Boston Globe.
“The Baker-Polito Administration is awaiting information from the federal government regarding any requests for assistance and information about potential eligibility for support services,” a statement read.
Boston has one of the largest Haitian populations in the United States and now many are facing possible removal from by U.S. immigration courts, the Globe reported.
Espinoza-Madrigal, with for Lawyers for Civil Rights, said the organization is working with Haitian Americans United to discuss legal support for 24 families who just arrived. Many have already been placed in removal proceedings in immigration court by the federal government, with court dates scheduled in the coming weeks and months, according to the Globe.
“The federal government is testing their ability to remain in the United States,” Espinoza-Madrigal reportedly said. “It doesn’t appear that any of these families have been granted immigration protection or relief, which is deeply problematic considering that Haitian refugees are fleeing life-threatening conditions in their home country.”
Many of these families have survived constant turmoil and are simply seeking better lives for themselves and their children.
“They just want a chance at life,” Fleurissaint said. “That’s basically the argument we have made to the US government.”
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