- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 29, 2003

MIAMI, Jan. 29 (UPI) — Lawyers for 200 Haitians who jumped from a packed refugee boat in Miami's Biscayne Bay said Wednesday their prospects for political asylum are looking up.

The pro-bono attorneys say chances improved because they can provide representation for all of the refugees.

One 17-year-old boy was released Tuesday, and Alfred Selmond, 40, and his 13-year-old son were released last week.

"All we needed was some time to get organized," said Randy McGrorty, director of Catholic Charities Legal Services in Miami.

That was illustrated by the first week of asylum hearings in December. Catholic Charities said it gave 21 refugees letters asking the immigration judge for a delay in the proceedings. The letters said the would-be immigrants would be provided an attorney in a month.

All 21 were denied a delay and then denied asylum, said Candace Jean, a Catholic Charities attorney.

Judges have denied 74 of 202 asylum applications so far.

Two men became the first to win their cases on Jan. 9. Since then at least five more have won asylum, and all of them had attorneys.

"I think there will be more and more grants given now because people have attorneys and attorneys have questioned them in detail and they understand what they need to present," Jean said.

"It's not how you want to think justice works. Because some people were lucky and they were scheduled later, they got represented, and were able to win their case," she said.

Selmond told other Haitians who had been on the boat he hoped they would have the same luck he did, so they could experience freedom in this country.

"In Haiti, if you're walking down the street with your mother or your brother, somebody can just walk up to you and kill your mother or brother, and there's nothing you can do," Selmond said.

"You just have to walk away and leave the body on the floor because if not, the same thing can happen to you," he said. "There's no security in Haiti. What happens to you happens. If in Haiti there was somewhere you could go to get justice, I don't think people would be coming here."

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