The Post's editorial "Immigration on American Terms" (July 29) contained misinformation relating to Haitian refugees, saying "actually, they are not refugees. The law reserves that category for aliens with a 'well-founded fear' of political persecution upon return home."
Such an assertion has a familiar ring. It is much like the prejudgment used by the Immigration and Naturalization Service and the Department of State in violating due process claims of Haitians seeking asylum.
Previous reports on Haiti and the Haitian refugee situation including Post editorials indicate that most, if not all, Haitians have a well-founded fear of persecution if they are returned to Haiti. According to Amnesty International Report 1980, "During theyear several Haitian citizens including Haitians living abroad who had returned home to visit were arbitrarily detained and expelled after vague accusations of subversion or being communist agitators." Additionally, a Post editorial of April 22, 1980, "Caribbean Refugees," indicated the best solution to the bureaucratic debate over Haitian asylum claims was "to offer asylum to already-arrived Haitians claiming political status." Since asylum applicants must meet the same legal standard as refugees, The Post's editorial of April 22 appears to recognize that many Haitians do have a legitimate claim to refugee status. Also, there were numerous Post articles during 1980 that revealed the political persecution faced by Haitians.
The federal courts have acknowledged the legitimate fears of Haitians returned to Haiti. "Upon return to Haiti, persons whom the Haitian government views as political opponents will be mistreated. Persons who have fled Haiti and sought asylum elsewhere are seen as opponents of the Duvalier regime. . . . One need not join a political party to be viewed as an opponent of Duvalier. To 'talk bad' about the government is a crime." Haitian Refugee Center v. Civiletti, U.S. District Court, S. D. of Florida, July 2, 1980).
While we accept that all immigrants and refugees will have to enter the United States "on American terms," we also believe that the Department of State and INS must not discriminate against asylum applicants on the basis of national origin or race. We think the record demonstrates an orchestrated attempt by the federal government to deny legitimate asylum claims of Haitian nationals.