Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Letters From a A Righteous Woman:

I'm pretty sure that Rose Gallagher wouldn't want to be described by the above tagline, but that is how I view her. She is a warrior for the poor in this country, who are so easily dismissed. John and I and all of Haitian Hearts appreciate her--no, depend on her--and her fight for what is right: getting people the medical care they deserve. The slogan of one of the medical centers that has accepted Haitian children is: Each life deserves world class care. Rose believes this, and so do we: here are her letters on behalf of children needing medical care.

December 9, 2005

Urgent Request for Intervention by Inspector General in US Consulate
Decision Regarding Raphaella Alexandre and her mother

Mr. Howard J. Krongad
Inspector General, US Department of State

Dear Inspector Krongad:

For many years, we at Hospice Saint Joseph in Port au Prince, Haiti,
have connected funding organizations and hospitals in the US with the visa
services they need at the US Consulate here. Recently we have encountered
numerous obstacles in our efforts to send sick children to the US for
treatment available nowhere in Haiti. We hope that some needed changes
can be brought about with your assistance.

Immediate Request: Yesterday, December 8, the Non-Immigrant Visa Unit
of the US Consulate issued a visa to Raphaella Alexandre, a severely
burned (face, torso, arm) 6 year old expected at the Shriners Burn
Hospital in Boston next week for treatments that will take from 3 to 6
months. Her mother, Audanise Alexandre-Saint Felix, was refused a visa to
accompany her on the grounds that the mother would use the visit as a
pretext to stay in the US. We wish this decision changed as soon as

Article 214(b) of the most recent US immigration legislation was cited,
in a French document, as grounds for the denial. The officer then
requested new documentation that would release the child into the custody
of any US citizen who could take her to Boston, plus a second document
from the parents releasing her into the full custody of the family that
has already prepared to welcome both child and mother. The receiving
family, who are not Haitian and do not know the language or culture of
Haiti, specifically requested that a family member accompany the child.
We are expected to send a traumatized little girl for a long hospital
experience among US children with intermittent periods spent in a family
that has no knowledge of her culture or language. They have already
expressed hesitancy about having her without a relative.

What I witnessed yesterday and in other recent exchanges with consulate
personnel indicates a new pattern. Nothing resembling an interview takes
place. Decisions are arbitrary and sometimes the officer does not even
examine the file but bases the decision on his initial impression of the
person. Marked changes in the manner of operating have taken place, not
when the US legislation changed, but when the head of the Immigrant Visa
Unit changed.
My previous experiences
I can document anything I write and I will describe only my direct
-Twenty seven years working with people of Haiti
-US migrant stream, resettlement out of migrant stream, detention
prisons, - Miami area, Fort Pierce FL, Roanoke VA, Washington DC
-Lived with Haitian families in Port au Prince and in 7 areas throughout
the country to understand language and culture
-Expert witness in immigration hearings about country conditions in
Haiti - MD, VA, FL, DC
-Directed Labor Department offices at Southwest VA migrant locations
during apple season for Migrant and Seasonal Farmworker Association –
predominantly Haitian pickers
-At 4 Indian River Community College sites taught ESOL courses to
Haitians and other peoples, also courses to prepare for naturalization
-At request of court administrator and concerned local citizens,
coordinated basic research for 2 years to improved interpreter preparation
for courts, hospitals, Federal and Florida governmental agencies so that
the community colleges could do more of the preparation and more persons
could become better qualified as interpreters and translators
-Doctoral work included major project and thesis on Haitian boat people
in the US – describes alternate models of resettlement more appropriate to
Haitian people and studies whether they see themselves as exiled or as
having arrived

I would like to stop at this point to prepare more information for you
on a separate e-mail. That way the help needed immediately will be
distinct from the on-going serious problems.

Thank you for the attention you and your staff can give to this.


Rose Gallagher


Part 2 US Consulate Port au Prince
Request for Examination of US Consulate Non-Immigrant Visa Unit

Rose Gallagher or Dawn Pinder
Hospice Saint Joseph
33 Rue Acacia, Christ Roi
Port au Prince, Haiti

Phones: 011-509-245-6177 and 011-509-550-0158

E-mail: rgsnjm@yahoo.fr

December 11, 2005

Inspector General Howard J. Krongard
US Department of State

Dear Inspector Krongard:

This is part 2 of a message I sent Friday about a 6 year old burn
victim. What follows are a few experiences I have had that show the
treatment people frequently receive who request visas to go to the US.
Selecting one section from the present US immigration law, article 214(b),
and using it to revoke visa applications and discount interviews, is
uncalled for in many cases. The seriously sick children and their parents
with whom we deal are not a threat to US security.

Even under the present legislation, we at Hospice Saint Joseph usually
brought sick children, their parents and all documentation to the Chief of
the Non-Immigrant Visa Unit, Mark B. O’Connor, who arranged to grant the
visas, often the next day. On their return from the US, we, with parents
and children, would go by to thank the chief and the staff. Total time:
about 20 to 30 minutes.

In October I spent many hours observing at the US Consulate with a 9
year old awaiting heart surgery in the US and her mother. From the date
of our appointment, we sat 5 full work days in the Consulate, starting at
about 7 a.m. There were not a great number of people awaiting medical
visas but it took until the 4th day to hand in any documents. Tropicana
Band musicians and staff all went ahead of medical visa applicants one
day. UN personnel were taken as they arrived during their work hours on 4
days. At one point there were 5 UN vehicles parked outside. The
computers went down 2 afternoons. Upon reaching an examiner on day 5, I
said I was familiar with the case and could be of some help. I was told
by him with startling harshness to “Take the child and get over there”. I
was so amazed at his rudeness and message that I did not move fast enough
and had to be told a second time. This was the Vice Counselor. I do not
begrudge musicians and UN personnel an opportunity to
spend time in the US, but there must be a better way to handle medical
visa requests, some of which require expedited service.

Presently the US Consulate does not hold encounters that could be
termed interviews. The setting is hostile. The interviewer sits behind
heavy glass. Those to be interviewed stand below in a sort of phone
booth. Usually the acoustics are poor. The interpreter stands behind the
interviewer. Most interpreters, at least in the drawbacks of this
particular setting, do not meet minimal standards for qualifying as
federal interpreters or even standards set by the interstate consortium
which sets qualifications for the 30 or more states that do meet
consortium standards.

The first words from the examiner or the interpreter are, “Parle vous
francais?” This is an intimidating opening, the equivalent of
stating, “You are indeed stupid and uneducated”. Less than 5% of the
people of Haiti speak and understand French whereas all but a few speak
Haitian Creole and many more speak Spanish and English than French.

The official may presume that the person is lying and simply deny a visa
without examining any documents or holding any conversation. The chief
and the examiners have been frank in telling me that they have a perfect
right to do this under provisions of present immigration law. But it
happens much too frequently. The problem is that those making judgments
have very little knowledge of the people or culture of Haiti. Most do not
venture beyond the US compound, and have never been into the countryside
or learned the language, which is the gate to any culture.

A woman, three generations of whose family I have known well in the US
and in Haiti, received this type of arbitrary and unmonitored decision
mentioned above without interview or examination of her papers. In 25
years of frequent contact with them I have never experienced a dishonest
word or action on the part of any family member. That is an assertion I
would not make about many people. According to her file, the examiner
judged on sight that she was lying. The solution suggested by phone by
Ms. Jennifer Langston, Chief of the Non-Immigrant Visa Unit, was that she
take a number of airplane trips throughout the Caribbean and bring the
plane receipts to the Consulate so that they could see she is a person of
means. The woman wanted to spend 2 or 3 weeks with her sister who was
having back surgery. She and her husband plant and harvest their rice
crops with the help of a number of people whom they hire. They also have
a center where the wife sells, wholesale and retail, rice,
beans, cooking oil and other staples. They raise and support 9
children. Neither of them has ever been to school. In the countryside
where families have lived for generations and many intelligent and honest
people have never been to school, exchange of goods and money depends on
knowing with whom one is dealing and giving one’s word, a pledge which can
be trusted more than any piece of paper. I could have testified to all
this but I am either blocked at the outside door or told to get out of
hearing range of the interview.

Calling the Consulate has become difficult. We have recorded in one
applicant’s file a period where, in the course of about a week, 11
unsuccessful attempts were made to reach Ms. Langston’s office. In a
series of conversations one morning, I was told by 5 employees, one after
another each the supervisor of the previous person, that they could not
give me any information, not even the address of the State Department.
They were only following orders, each one stated.

Services within the building itself are below standard. When I reached
first place in line recently to pay the visa fees, the staff person
excused herself to find a roll of paper for her receipt machine. She
returned 25 minutes later and found the roll in her desk. Another 15
minutes was spent inserting the roll. The receipt with which I could
obtain reimbursement ($200US) from the applicant’s funding foundation was
so light that it could not serve as a receipt. I requested that the staff
person darken the totals by hand and initial the corrections.
Impossible. Out of the question.

I can document all of the above from my notes taken as the events

This comes with much gratitude for whatever changes for the better you
can bring about.

Rose Gallagher

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