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  1. #1
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    Use of masks on Haitians raises protocol questions ... 06/10/07/m

    Use of masks on Haitians raises protocol questions
    By Daphne Duret

    Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

    Saturday, October 07, 2006

    America smelled like cut grass, lingering exhaust fumes and the faint aroma of a home-cooked breakfast near the intersection of Manatee Cove and Horseshoe Point roads.

    Each Haitian man had inhaled and exhaled the scent a thousand times that morning, their first breaths in America between the moment Bahamian smugglers let them off the boat just south of Stuart and the time they were caught and began their journey to the end of freedom.

    Photos:Haitian immigrants picked up

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    David Spencer/The Post

    Haitian men captured in September after coming ashore in Martin County were made to wear masks by the sheriff's office.

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    Authorities rounded them up early Sept. 15, some of them just minutes after they came ashore.

    Ten of them sat at the intersection in the Rocky Point neighborhood around 9 a.m. as they waited to board the Martin County Sheriff's Office van.

    The handcuffs encasing their wrists let them know that as much as they wanted to be here, America would not be their land. The masks covering their noses and mouths let them know that even the air, America's air, was not theirs.

    "I said, 'They're treating them like animals,' " Faye Robertson of Lake Worth said when she saw images of the men in the newspaper the next day. "I was so appalled. I said, 'This is racism.' "

    Deputies said they put masks on the men to keep themselves and the general public from catching airborne diseases such as tuberculosis, which are more prevalent in developing countries. The sheriff's office since has said it plans to require that deputies use the same measures with illegal immigrants from all nations, not just Haiti.

    Martin County sheriff's Capt. Robert Pryor said the measure is not about who the people are or the color of their skin. Pryor said it has much more to do with safety, insurance liability and the potential of workers compensation claims for deputies who may become infected on the job if they don't take the proper safeguards.

    "It's not a case of 'I don't like you or I don't like where you come from, let me put a mask on you.' It is a fact that some of these countries don't have as good a health-care system in their countries as we do in our country," he said. "They (immigrants) don't have money for health care. Most of them spent all the money they had just trying to get here."

    World Health Organization studies show Haiti ranks high among Caribbean nations in infection rates for tuberculosis, an infectious and deadly but sometimes asymptomatic respiratory illness that affects millions worldwide.

    The rates are especially high in developing nations like Haiti, but public health officials in recent years have become alarmed by a rising number of cases in the developed world, including deadly drug-resistant strains of the illness in parts of Europe.

    Cheryl Little, executive director of the Miami-based Florida Immigration Advocacy Center, has represented the rights of Haitian immigrants in South Florida for years.

    She understands the statistics and the department's desire to take precautions, but was shocked by the images of the Haitians in masks.

    "I don't recall ever seeing anything like that," she said. "If I were one of those men sitting there, I would have felt terribly ashamed, embarrassed and just humiliated."

    Martin County is not alone in using masks. St. Lucie County Sheriff Ken Mascara said his deputies use masks on themselves when they process immigrants, for the same reasons Martin County does.

    Although deputies receive training on how airborne and blood-borne illnesses are transmitted, the practice of wearing gloves, masks and other special equipment when dealing specifically with Caribbean immigrant populations is not written into department policies.

    Pryor said Martin County puts masks on the detainees because masking themselves would hurt their ability to communicate with the detainees and one another.

    In Palm Beach and Broward counties, sheriff's offices give deputies protective equipment but leave it up to each deputy to decide when, where, and on whom to use it.

    The Coast Guard has a list of safety protocols it uses when officers intercept immigrants from coastal waters, but officials said officers adapt the protocols to each situation. The Coast Guard uses masks only when someone exhibits symptoms of an illness or there are other reasons to believe one or more migrants has a contagious disease.

    Marlene Bastien, a Haitian-American and director of the Haitian Women of Miami, said she has seen masks used on Haitian migrants a handful of times. Almost all of these cases constituted gross discrimination, she said, part of a lingering cultural perception that grouped Haitians with homosexuals and hemophiliacs as high-risk groups for HIV and AIDS in the early 1980s.

    Bastien, Little and others asked why Martin deputies put masks on the Haitian men on Sept. 15 while the Bahamian smuggling suspects, Andrew Gates and Alvio Penn, were unmasked when they were captured a short while later.

    The answer for Pryor is simple: Martin County sheriff's deputies caught the Haitian men, and the U.S. Office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement caught the Bahamians. If his department had captured the Bahamians, he said, they would have worn masks, too.

    That day, 17 men, four women and three children from Haiti were captured after the boat came ashore. Some had made it as far south as Fort Lauderdale. They remain at a detention center awaiting a likely deportation.

    On Sept. 21, a federal grand jury indicted smuggling suspects Gates and Penn on charges of bringing in and harboring aliens.

    On Friday, a single folded white mask full of sand and dirt lay on the sidewalk near the intersection of Horseshoe Point and Manatee Cove roads, the only physical reminder that the Haitians were there.

    "I think the message was very clear," Little said. "And it wasn't a message of welcome."

    What are your thoughts about this issue? Please post your comment below. We reserve the right to delete offensive or inappropriate comments. Report abuse.

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    By Mary

    October 7, 2006 11:47 AM | Link to this

    No one knows the physical condition of the illegals when they came ashore. Alot spend many days on a boat with no water or food. They come ashore sick and weak. No one should make this into a racial issue. When an illegal comes ashore, we have a right to protect ourselves. I doubt my grandparents who came to Ellis Island were insulted they received a medical exam. They were GRATEFUL to be in the USA. Also, it’s not necessary to call anyone an animal or other degrading names.

    By Codi Peter

    October 7, 2006 11:33 AM | Link to this

    And one more thing. You all act like a bunch of dumbass who are not educated or banished in a society, if someone complained about something that made him or her feel bad, there is no reason to bark for that, not because they are black or they are from in a poor category you are supposed to treat them and blame them. I don’t think they would do that to a Canadian or aEnglish immigrant. Think it that way we are all human and we are all going in the same way.

    By Codi Peter

    October 7, 2006 11:24 AM | Link to this

    LEt’s get this straight! This is crazy, all of you people who are talking here were supposed to wear a mask in a daily base because you are the one who are contaminating the nature with your diseases and you are blaming the immigrants. THis is something unbelievable.

    By Nick Lentini

    October 7, 2006 11:06 AM | Link to this

    So let me get this straight, Illegal Hatians make it to America, and complain that they have to wear a mask when taken into custody. Anybody who sides with them shoud also be deported. You have got to be kidding me!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    By Christine Tesserot

    October 7, 2006 10:12 AM | Link to this

    I think that we cannot be naif. The fact of the matter is this Haitians are illegal, they do come from a very poor atmosphere and chances are they could be carrying some sort of disease. It is the duty of the state to protect its citizens. Now one can argue “discrimination” but discrimination or not these Haitian refugees find themselves, in the eye of the law, guilty. Can one argue that fact?

    By flbeaches

    October 7, 2006 10:08 AM | Link to this

    Oh and they should go back, we cannot keep up with our own litters here let alone from another country.

    By Indianapolis

    October 7, 2006 10:06 AM | Link to this

    There is always 2 sides to everything. Brian they may have broken the law by entering the country illegally, the law should deal with it. i’m a police officer and i understand the rights of the sher. off. to protect themselves, but being born haitian i don’t think these people are animals, they still need to be treated with some kind of dignity too. Meet me for a beer we’ll see if my bicep loves your adams’ apple.

    By flbeaches

    October 7, 2006 10:05 AM | Link to this

    I thought the protection of wearing the surgical masks was to prevent inhalating airborn diseases more so than the other way around to those most acceptable. Also What does this have anything to do with racism? Why does everything revolve around racism. How stuck in the past are we?? Grow up! What white cant go on black… only white on white? How about white on black… would that be better?

    By Melvin Haney

    October 7, 2006 09:53 AM | Link to this

    Boo, freaking HOO! You liberals make me PUKE! We should put these animals back on the boats they came in, and set them adrift into the ocean to go back. Oh, I am sooooo touched by your bleeding heart piece of puke.

    By liz

    October 7, 2006 09:43 AM | Link to this

    Karen, this is racism? Protecting us from getting an airborne disease? These are surgical masks that the paramedics wear everyday. You act as if the illegals had masking tape on their mouths. The paramedics and police have a right to protect themselves and others. In alot of countries illegals are shot & killed at the border. We give them food, clothes, a shower, etc.,and oh yeah, they have to wear a surgical mask—what a shame!

    By Dorothy More

    October 7, 2006 09:33 AM | Link to this


    These folks broke the law – they are criminals – they entered our country illegally!

    CDC and World Health Org show alarming 306 per 100,00 in Haiti infected with tuberculosis. Cheryl Little are you a little ignorant? Why don’t you wake up! The American Authorities have an obligation to protect us. The Coast Guard, Sheriffs Office, the US Office of Immigration, they are in place to protect the United States of America and our legal citizens, consisting of

    By Karen

    October 7, 2006 09:10 AM | Link to this

    Oh, this is animosity. THis is pure rracism, how could they treat human beings like this? wow.

    By liz

    October 7, 2006 08:05 AM | Link to this

    Thank you to “Joe Lunchbox” on the good point you made about the Ellis Island immigrants. I don’t understand why so many Americans are more concerned about the welfare of illegals, than they are for the welfare of our AMERICAN citizens, more specifically the elderly and young who get abused on a daily basis. Faye, stop worrying about a mask on some illegal immigrant and go volunteer your time at a child abuse or alheizmer’s center.

    By Joe Lunchbox

    October 7, 2006 06:26 AM | Link to this

    Pure, unadulterated bleeding-heart-liberal-politically-correct crapola! Ms Robertson, Ms Little and Ms Bastien should be sure to keep towelettes at hand to dab the red spots off their clothing from their poor little bleeding hearts. The real victims, potentially and/or actually, are the American people who should be protected from ILLEGAL aliens attempting to enter the country ILLEGALLY! Millions of legal immigrants were chked for illness at Ellis Island- was that racial/ethnic,discrimination?

    By Boynton

    October 7, 2006 06:15 AM | Link to this

    Tyey are NOT welcome. Coming illegally, they are not welcome. Doesn’t matter what they look like or where they come from.

    By Brian

    October 7, 2006 05:46 AM | Link to this

    As a Florida State certified Firefighter, Paramedic/EMT I feel that ALL persons in contact with such immigrants should take BSI body substance precautions in all cases. I have been exposed to TB, the individual was WHITE BSI is not a racial issue. You can be exposed to TB on an airplane and not even know it.

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  2. #2
    Senior Member nittygritty's Avatar
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    Apr 2006
    Our stupid political correctness and our fear of being acused of being a racist is going to get us all killed and or lose our country someday in the not to far future! I am going to get me a tee shirt that says NO MORE POLITICAL CORRECTNESS FOR THEIS GUY! A LITTLE COMMON SENSE INSTEAD.
    Build the dam fence post haste!

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