Haitian Immigrant Boat Sinks

9 Dead, 16 Saved After Boat Of Haitian Immigrants Sinks
By Associated Press May 14, 2009 8:08 am

“Rescuers were searching the ocean off Florida Thursday for survivors after a boat carrying about 30 people — many of them Haitian immigrants seeking to escape their country’s crushing poverty — capsized and sank.

At least nine people were killed, including an infant, in the Wednesday accident, U.S. Coast Guard officials said. Sixteen more people were pulled out of the rough waters.

Although the Coast Guard hadn’t figured out exactly how many people were aboard or how many might still be lost at sea, it appeared most of the passengers were from Haiti and the trip fit the profile of migrant smuggling.

“The boat was obviously overloaded,” Capt. James Fitton said. “It’s a tragedy that someone would be so callous with human life.”

Since October, the Coast Guard had stopped 1,377 Haitians from trying to get to the U.S., an increase over the 972 during the same seven-month period last year. Four tropical storms and hurricanes battered the Western Hemisphere’s poorest country during last year’s harvest season, killing 793 people, crippling agriculture and causing $1 billion in damage to irrigation, bridges and roads.

In January, United Nations-sponsored groups said more aid was urgently needed to stave off famine in several areas of the country. For those familiar with the plight of Haitians, the escape attempt was no surprise.

“The economic conditions in Haiti are deplorable, and I don’t see them getting any better any time soon,” said Andy Gomez, a University of Miami expert on Caribbean migration. “And the Haitian-American community has developed a pretty good network here in the last five or 10 years, just as the Cuban-Americans have done, so there’s more of a reason to come.”

Fitton said the boat apparently left Bimini in the Bahamas on Tuesday night and was believed to have capsized or collided with something at about 2 a.m. Wednesday. Many Caribbean migrants who try to reach the U.S. arrange trips leaving from the Bahamas.

Officials didn’t learn about the accident until another boater who spotted swimmers called more than 10 hours later about 15 miles off the shore of Boynton Beach, where water temperatures by the afternoon were in the high 70s.

The boat has not been found, and rescuers believed it sank because it hasn’t been spotted from the air. Besides children, women also were aboard, including a pregnant woman.

Several of the bodies recovered were taken from Coast Guard boats onto land in Riviera Beach, where dozens of emergency vehicles were waiting. Three of the survivors were taken to hospitals. The Palm Beach Post reported that one woman was in critical condition, but the Coast Guard said all the rescued people were expected to survive.

The ship’s sinking came as Haitian-American leaders met in Washington on Wednesday to lobby for temporary protective status, or TPS, for those from the country who make it to the U.S.

It would be an emergency measure to keep people from being deported to their homeland while it recovers from a natural disaster or major political upheaval. It has been granted to countries including El Salvador and Nicaragua but never to Haiti.

“If not now, when?” Cheryl Little, executive director of the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center, asked of potentially granting Haitians protective status. “The longer it takes the administration to decide whether to grant TPS, the more people may decide to attempt to make it to our shores

John Hope Franklin Dies


Reported by ASALH

John Hope Franklin, the scholar who was a pioneer in the field of African American history and dominated it for nearly six decades, has died at the age of 94.
Franklin, James B. Duke Professor Emeritus of History, was a scholar who brought intellectual rigor as well as an engaged passion to his work. He wrote about history – one of his books, From Slavery to Freedom, is considered a core text on the African American experience, more than 60 years after its publication – and he lived it. Franklin worked on the Brown v. Board of Education (1954) case, joined protestors in a 1965 march led by Martin Luther King, Jr. in Montgomery, Ala. and headed President Clinton’s 1997 National Advisory Board on Race.
Though Dr. Franklin gained national recognition for his work on President Clinton’s 1997 task force on race, his reputation as a scholar was made in 1947 with the publication of his book, “From Slavery to Freedom: A History of African-Americans,” which is still considered the definitive account of the black experience in America.
At the 92nd Annual ASALH convention, we had the privilege of honoring Dr. Franklin and this seminal work. Conventioneers and the public were treated to conversations and special moments with Dr. Franklin who relayed stories from his life that helped to shape him into the scholar that he became.

He received more than 130 honorary degrees, and served as president of the Phi Beta Kappa Society, the American Studies Association, the Southern Historical Association, the Organization of American Historians, the American Historical Association and was a Life Member of ASALH, former ASALH National Vice President, and a member of the ASALH Advisory Board until his death.

The Executive Council of ASALH is proud to say that we had the honor to work with and know Dr. John Hope Franklin and it is with sad and heavy hearts that we give him back to the Lord. “Dr. Franklin never waivered in his support for ASALH,” said Sylvia Cyrus, ASALH Executive Director. “Recently he lent his voice to the ASALH project “Freedom’s Song” on the Tulsa Race Riots. Through this video generations will continue to learn from Dr. Franklin, a tireless educator and dignified American.” “We have lost a strong supporter and a dear friend,” said Dr. John E. Fleming, ASALH National President. “He has left a void in the world of history that will not soon be filled.” There will be a celebration of his life and of his late wife Aurelia Franklin at 11 a.m. June 11 in Duke Chapel in honor of their 69th wedding anniversary.
– The Officers, Executive Council, and Advisory Board of ASALH “Founders of Black History Month”