Danticat’s Uncle Dies in Homeland Security Custody

Maud here. I’m popping in very briefly on Annie’s clock to post some outrageous news from novelist Hannah Tinti:

I just found out that Edwidge Danticat’s uncle [Joseph Dantica] who raised her while her parents were in the US, died last week while in the custody of Homeland Security. He was 81 years old, he had a valid visa to the US, he was a church pastor, and he was forced to flee Haiti after the UN used his church to stage an ‘operation,’ killing several civilians in the process.

Tinti says that, on arriving in the U.S., Dantica requested asylum. Because “he had a visa and a family willing to take him in this should have been a straightforward process but instead he was taken into custody, refused his blood pressure medication and his family was not allowed to visit him. He died 5 days later.”

According to the St. Pete Times, Homeland Security says that Mr. Dantica died in the hospital of pancreatitis and “was carrying ‘no legitimate prescribed medicine.’ All he had in his possession was a ‘folk remedy,’ which the department described as some kind of ‘poultice’ or dressing.”

The Homeland Security officials do acknowledge that Dantica asked for his medicine after an immigration interview and then collapsed, was taken to a hospital — where family members were not allowed to visit him — and died. Here’s the official statement about that:

Mr. Dantica died of pancreatitis while in Homeland Security custody, which an autopsy by the Miami-Dade County medical examiner’s office revealed as a pre-existing and fatal condition.

His niece, Edwidge Danticat, winner of the 1999 National Book Award, and author of Krik?Krak!, Breath, Eyes, Memory, The Farming of Bones and The Dew Breaker, told the paper she and her family are “completely outraged by the way he was treated.'” And rightfully so.

No doubt responsibility will be taken by the appropriate officials. (Yep, just as it was when the Abu Ghraib prison scandal erupted.) But until then, Tinti is asking that everyone in the media work double-time to get this story out.

In its report, the St. Pete Times discusses the immigration imbalances in Florida that nobody in the state or U.S. government wants to talk about:

Haitian-Americans watched in awe this week as a group of 44 Cuban entertainers applied for political asylum in Las Vegas, unmolested by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

The treatment of the Cubans could not have contrasted more sharply with the experience of Joseph Dantica, an 81-year-old Haitian Baptist minister who recently applied for asylum in Miami.

U.S. immigration officials took the Rev. Dantica to jail, where he died before he had the chance to make his case for asylum. His family held a wake for him Thursday at a Miami funeral home.

“He died alone in a hospital bed,” said his niece Edwidge Danticat, 35, who is a U.S. citizen. “It’s not that the others (Cubans) don’t deserve it. But there should be some fairness.”

(Thanks to Wah-Ming for the St. Pete Times link.)


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