Life has not been exactly kind to Evodise Lacroix. Not even 30, she came to the United States in July 1978, an exile, she says, as a result of repression by the Duvalier regime in her native Haiti.
She obtained a work permit, began cooking for a Miami Beach couple and was doing well enought to lease a $195-a-month apartment for herself and her five children.
Then abruptly the Immigration and Naturalization Service lifted her work permit and she lost her job.
But this past weekend a federal district judge handed a victory to Evodise Lacroix. The Immigration and Baturalization Service, Judge William M. Hoeverler said, had illlegally revoked her work permit and those of 3,000 Haitians as well, who, like her, are seeking political asylum in the United States and went to work until their asylum is granted or denied. They are among perhaps 9,000 Haitians in South Florida seeking a haven from what they claim is a repressive, anti-human rights regime in Haiti.
This weekend's ruling was a victory for the Haitians' lawyers who had argued that the INS had given the Haitians work permits in the first place solely to indentify them and obtain their addresses -- so they could deport them later.
Judge Hoeveler ruled that the INS had acted improperly when, after agreeing to issue all Haitians work permits pending their asylum claims, the service suddenly stopped and revoked all outstanding work authorizations.
Later this week he is expecte to issue a temporary restraining order that would allow the Haitians to legally hold jobs while their claims for political asylum are decided.
But the weekend action "was a booster for the morale," said the Rev. Gerard Jean-Juste of the Haitian Refugee Center here, which provides help and food for the refugees. He noted, however, that "this constitutes only a small portion of the Haitian community -- what anout those who never got any [work] papers?"
The legal battle here over the work permits, which affects 2,000 Haitians, is only a part of a larger controversy over the refugees, who, like the Asians of afar, have been in the dead of homelands by boat in the dead of night.
The Haitians claim they are political refugees deserving asylum; the federal government considers them economic refugees, escapees not from political repression but from the agony of grinding poverty.
Richard H. Gullage, the deputy director of the INS in Mami, denied the charge that the agency granted the work permits just to locate refugee Haitians so they could be deported.
He said the number of those given work permits pending asylum hereings had become too great for officials to process.
But judge Hoeverler ruled that the blanket revocation of work permits violated federal procedures requiring individual hearings on a matter of such importance.
Dade County officials had supported the Haitians, claiming they could fill jobs without taking them from local workers. A study by the county had found earlier that allowing the Haitians to hold jobs would reduce funds spent by the county assisting than through social welfare programs.
When Jocelyn Paul, 23, for example, and Elienne Laverduv had their son. James Perry Paul, 10 months ago, he was born in the Broward County Hospital, and the couple has been trying to pay off the bills ever since at $20 a month. They've missed at least three payments because they have no jobs.
"In spite of all this," Paul says of his lost work permit and his joblessness in the United States, "I feel better than if I was in Haiti. Here, I can talk and say what I want. There, there is no freedom."
And of his son, born a citizen in the United States, Paul says: "He okay. He free." CAPTION: Picture, Jocelyn Paul, left, and family members outside the Haitian Refugee Center in Miami after court ruling. Ap