No smiles, no free food, no dry clothing, no job offers, no helping government hand was waiting when Raymond Ledie stepped off a boat onto a south Florida beach six months ago.
He came from the wrong place -- Haiti instead of Cuba.
Ledie and his 60 companions, refugees who had sailed from Haiti on a frightening 15-day journey, found themselves jailed as illegal aliens. Freed after eight days, pending deportation hearings, Ledie today wanders the streets of Miami hunting for a job.
Back in Haiti, his wife and two children wait for money he had promised to send. But Ledie, who speaks no English, is barely able to feed himself. "When a friend gives me a dollar from time to time, then I can eat," he said.
The plight of the nation's Haitian refugees -- about 15,000 to 30,000 have fled here in the last eight years -- is escalating into an embarrassing controversy for the Carter administration, as blacks, labor and church leaders and human rights groups charge that immigration officials are applying a double standard.
While thousands of Cuban refugees are being greeted here with a flood of official hospitality, their poorer Caribbean cousins, fleeing the dictatorship of President Jean Claude Duvalier, are battling in court merely to be allowed to stay.
In a U.S. District Court class action suit here, the Justice Department is fighting efforts by the National Council of Churches, Amnesty International and civil rights groups to overturn deportation proceedings and grant asylum to 10,000 Haitians.
While the court's decision is expected any day, political pressure is building in Washington to have President Carter grant asylum across the board to all illegal Haitian immigrants by May 15, when that presidential power expires under the 1980 Refugee Act.
The Congressional Black Caucus yesterday charged the administration with racism and "deliberate defeat" in its policy toward the Haitians. All the Haitians are black, while 20 percent of the latest wave of Cuban refugees are black.
Carter appeared to include Haitians in his "open heart, open arms" refugee policy announced last Tuesday, and yesterday federal officers declared the Haitians eligible for food stamps and temporary work permits. But there are no federal resettlement or job programs for Haitians as there are for Cubans.
Under the 1952 Refugee Act, immigrants from communist countries automatically were granted political asylum. Refugees from right-wing dictatorships, especially those friendly to the United States, are discriminated against, according to Msgr. Brian Walsh, head of the Catholic refugee program here.
"If the Haitians had been middle-class, white, educated people, some one would have found a solution before now," Walsh said.
Only 60 of the thousands of illegal Haitian immigrants have been granted political asylum. Others have been jailed and deported to what they claim is certain death at the hands of the Tontons Macoutes, Haiti's secret police.
But as Daniel D. Fromstein, the Justice Department defense lawyer here, sees it, Haitians "are just getting a free ride. The longer they are here, the longer they have to push for legislation."
In a cozy little restaurant, the Grandes Antilles on Second Avenue, where Haitian tourist brochures decorate the walls and poisson frit -- fried fish -- sells for $3.50, the legal arguments seem far removed from daily life.
"We have plenty, plenty problems," said Joseph Petit, 39, whose thin frame hung lanky over the restaurant stool. "We die, we die if they send us back to Haiti."
Petit said he fled to the Bahamas in 1975 after an incident with the Tontons Macoutes. He was complaining to a man on a street corner about life in Haiti. The man disappeared and a group of police thugs returned. "They beat me here," he said, pointing to a scar on his cheek. "They knocked my teeth out."
Petit, now unemployed, lives with his wife and two children in a single room in a small apartment with four other families. But he says of America, "Life is very, very good. My children are in school. My woman is working in a factory.
"In Haiti, you have no freedom. If you say you are hungry, they beat you. If you talk wrong about the government, they beat you. Here I can walk anywhere and say anything."