November 19, 2004
Asylum News 33
U.S. Department of Homeland Security Detained 81-year-old Haitian Minister because He Asked for Asylum Baptist Minister Joseph Dantica fled Haiti and arrived at Miami International Airport on October 29, 2004, traveling on his own passport. The Department of Homeland Security put the 81-year-old Reverend Dantica in an immigration jail in Miami after he asked for asylum. Several days later, Reverend Dantica died in DHS custody. “The treatment of Reverend Dantica was deplorable and should be investigated immediately,” said Eleanor Acer, Director of Human Rights First’s Asylum Program. “The Department of Homeland Security – just like the INS before it – is totally mishandling the detention of asylum seekers. They have failed to make necessary reforms – and keep jailing ministers and other victims of persecution, instead of making fair and humane decisions about the need for detention in each individual case.” Human Rights First extends its deepest sympathies to the family of Reverend Dantica. For more information read “Asylum Seekers Death While in Federal Custody Spurs Outcry” in the South Florida Sun Sentinel (November 18, 2004). Read Human Rights First’s Letter to Secretary Ridge. (PDF - 52KB) Human Rights First Urges Immediate Investigation and Reforms Human Rights First urges the Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security and the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice to immediately:
- Investigate this incident, including reports that Reverend Dantica was deprived of his medications, accused of faking his illness, and was denied the right to have his family visit him once he was hospitalized; and
- Investigate the Department’s initial decision to detain, and subsequent decision not to release, the 81-year-old minister.
- Explained how those who flee persecution and seek refuge in the U.S. are detained automatically at our airports, sent to prison-like facilities, and deprived of a fair process for seeking their release from detention;
- Described how Haitian asylum seekers have been subjected to a nationality-based detention policy and deprived of meaningful assessments of the need for their continued detention by the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice; and
- Concluded that, since September 11, the Department of Homeland Security has increasingly begun detaining asylum seekers who arrive at airports and borders even though they arrive on their own valid passports.
- Terminate its nationality-based detention policies aimed at Haitian asylum seekers;
- Give Haitian and other asylum seekers the chance to have their detention reviewed by an immigration judge, like other immigration detainees;
- Put the official parole criteria for asylum seekers into formal regulations; and
- Create a high-level refugee protection position in the Office of the DHS Secretary Tom Ridge.