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Haitian who was not allowed to stay in U.S. dies in earthquake

Thursday, January 21, 2010; A15

Maxo Osnac Dantica was "a casualty of two countries," said his cousin, the writer Edwidge Danticat.

In fall 2004, he fled Haiti with his father, the Rev. Joseph Dantica, an 81-year-old Baptist minister whose church had been set afire by gangs. They arrived in Miami, asked for asylum and were taken into custody at Krome Service Processing Center, a federal immigration detention facility.

Soon after, when his father became violently ill and fell unconscious, Krome workers accused him of faking his symptoms. Maxo Dantica was brought in to try to talk with him but was crying so hard he could not speak. Belatedly taken to a hospital, his father died a day later, shackled to a hospital bed.

Maxo Dantica was released on his birthday, the day after his father died, and stayed in the United States for a time pursuing an immigration case, but an old drug conviction was getting in the way. About three years ago, he returned to Bel Air, overlooking downtown Port-au-Prince, and took up his father's work, running the church school and raising money for neighbors who needed help. On Jan. 12, when the earthquake struck, Dantica, 61, raced down a flight of stairs in the church compound. The school building and apartments collapsed on him.

Each day, his wife and cousins, homeless and staying out of the city, returned to the site, "lifting one rock at a time," said Danticat, the writer, who lives in Miami and was awarded a MacArthur fellowship in the fall. On Tuesday, they found part of his remains.

"He wasn't able to stay here, and he wasn't able to remain alive there," Danticat said. Amid the destruction, however, the church still stands.

-- Amy Goldstein in Washington

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