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article imageVermont a Hotspot for Haitians Sneaking into US

By Martin Laine     Apr 4, 2010 in Politics
The U.S. Border Patrol is reporting a record of number of Haitians have been detained for illegally crossing from Canada into the United States since the January earthquake struck their homeland.
“We’re known over here as being very aggressive. I don’t know why they would choose Vermont unless there are a couple of places they know about,” said Betty Horsman, deputy U.S. Attorney in Plattsburgh, NY, who works on immigration cases, in a report in the Burlington Free Press.
Since the January 12 earthquake, 115 Haitians have been apprehended crosing illegally in the Swanton District, which covers Vermont and the New York border to Ogdensburg. Of those, 114 were in Vermont.
Almost all of them had been living in Montreal, which has a large population of Haitians. Some had applied for refugee status, which would have allowed them to continue living in Canada.
So why attempt to enter the U.S. illegally, risking arrest and detention?
According to those working with the detainees, many had lost family members in the earthquake, and they wished to be reunited with other family members already living in the United States.
“One guy lost everyone in his famly,” said Chrissy Etienne, an interpreter who had worked with some of the detainees. “He had one last cousin remaining stateside. Other people have children here, spouses.”
Many of them came thinking they could take advantage of an 18-month deportation ban that was put into effect after the earthquake. The problem is, that ban applies only to illegal immigants who were already in the country at the time of the earthquake.
U.S. officials don’t appear to be inclined to be sympathetic.
“In a situation where we have so many people crossing the border and entering the United States illegally to live here ilegally, we need to take a relatively strong deterrent stance on that conduct,” said Tristram Coffin, U.S. Attorney for Vermont.
For the time being, most of those detained remain in custody.
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