Another Victim of Homeland Security

Sorry to cut in on a Friday, but this is important and I just had to post it when I found out about it through an email from fellow writer Hannah Tinti. Acclaimed novelist Edwidge Danticat‘s uncle, who was 81 and who’d raised her while she lived in Haiti away from her parents, has died while in the custody of Homeland Security. He was a church pastor, who had to flee Haiti after being attacked by gang leaders in Port-au-Prince. He had a valid visa to enter the United States and indeed had come here many times to visit his family. Upon arriving here he requested asylum, which shouldn’t have been a problem; instead, he was taken into custody. He had high blood pressure, but he was denied his medication and his family was not allowed to see him. He died five days later.
Hannah also forwards the link to this St. Petersburg Times article, which has more details about the case.

Homeland Security rejected any responsibility for Dantica’s death. “Mr. Dantica died of pancreatitis while in Homeland Security custody, which an autopsy by the Miami-Dade County medical examiner’s office revealed as a pre-existing and fatal condition,” the department said.
It added that it was “unfortunate” that he died during the asylum interview. “We understand his family’s grief, but there is no connection between the pre-existing terminal medical condition he had and the process through which he entered the country.”
Homeland Security said Dantica was carrying “no legitimate prescribed medicine.” All he had in his possession was a “folk remedy,” which the department described as some kind of “poultice” or dressing.

Danticat’s treatment stands in sharp contrast to the routine granting of asylum to Cuban citizens (the most recent of which took place this week in Las Vegas.)

Unlike Cubans fleeing communism, who are allowed automatic entry if they reach U.S. shores, undocumented Haitians are routinely detained. U.S. officials have gone as far as arguing that the Haitians represent a national security threat; Attorney General John Ashcroft recently cited intelligence reports that Muslim terrorists were trying to use Haiti to infiltrate the United States.

That’s right, folks. Blame it all on the Muslims. The news has been picked up in a couple of newspapers (Seattle P.I., Sun-Sentinel) and on blogs: Maud Newton, Beatrice and Tingle Alley. We always hear about tangles with Homeland Security and think they couldn’t happen to us until they do happen to someone you know. If I find out more about the case, I will update this post.