Haitians United In Crusade For Temporary Protected Status

Haitians United in Crusade for Temporary Protected Status

By Elizabeth Roberts
The South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale), October 1, 2009

Abner Clerveaux spent 48 hours on a bus for a five-hour rally in front of the White House and he didn't even need what he was asking for: extension of Temporary Protected Status for Haitians in the United States.

The naturalized citizen said he did it because it is right to treat Haitian immigrants like their pilgrim predecessors. If nothing comes of it, he's prepared to return.

'This is a country of immigrants. The Pilgrims when they came here had no documentation. The Italians didn't have visas at the turn of the century. People forget their fathers and grandfathers came here on a boat,' he said.

When Clerveaux boarded a bus in Pompano Beach for the 48-hour round trip to Washington, D.C., the Deerfield Beach resident was in good company. About 55 people born in Haiti and living in America felt strongly enough about the U.S. position toward immigration status for Haitians that they took the time to make their voices heard in person.

'There were people who left work, who left businesses. People felt the cause was worthy of living two or three days with no employment,' he said. 'A lot are unemployed because they cannot work because of other barriers imposed by immigration. They refuse to give them a work permit. They are not allowed to drive.'

Clerveaux was not one of those. A Realtor by trade, he has been a naturalized citizen for more than 20 years but said he felt compelled to join a march that drew busloads of protesters from Orlando, Pompano Beach, Fort Myers and Pompano Beach, as well as Deerfield Beach and Miami. The protesters had a permit to march in front of the White house for five hours, and they made the most of their time.

'We screamed. We yelled. We protested,' he said. 'There was a sign for every single person there.'

Clerveaux's sign said, 'Obama Yes You can,' referring to the president's pledge to reverse Bush administration policies toward Haiti, granting about 20 million Haitians in America Temporary Protected Status or TPS.

When the rally ended at 3 p.m., Clerveaux said he got back on the bus for a return trip longer than the rally itself.

'We were very tired, but people were very excited,' he said. 'Living here without documentation is like living like an animal. In Haiti, you do not have any bills – you own your home or live with families, but you don't absolutely have to have electricity, or running water. People have wells. They have charcoal. They have alternatives. All you have to do is find food to eat. Here, you have to pay bills. It is much worse to live here without work than to live in Haiti.'

'If nothing comes from this rally,' he said, 'we will go back 10 times that number.'