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GTMO in MSP: Haitian Refugee Rights and Rightlessness, Feb. 28, 2014

Refugee Rights and Rightlessness: Haitian Refugees at Guantánamo in the 1990s

February 28, 2014, 3:00-4:30pm
Andersen Library 120, University of Minnesota

A panel discussion with A. Naomi Paik, Ninaj Raoul, and Michele Garnett McKenzie.

In the early 1990s, over 32,000 refugees fled a military coup d’etat in Haiti. Their makeshift boats were intercepted by the US Coast Guard and brought to crowded detention camps at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. US courts declared that the Haitians had “no substantive rights.” The camp became the world’s first detention center for people with HIV/AIDS and marked the first time GTMO was used as anything other than a naval base. This panel of speakers will address the experiences of Haitian refugees at GTMO and connect this history with the major issues relevant to refugee rights in the present.

Haitian refugees detained at GTMO gather water.

Haitian refugees detained at GTMO gather water.

A. Naomi Paik is an Assistant Professor of American Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. Paik’s work examines Japanese Americans interned during World War II, “enemy combatants” currently detained at GTMO, and Haitian refugees at GTMO in the 1990s and connects these disparate experiences through the concept of “rightlessness.”

Ninaj Raoul worked as a translator for Haitian refugees detained at GTMO in the 1990s. On her return to New York, Raoul co-founded Haitian Women for Haitian Refugees (HWHR), an organization intended to respond to the needs the refugees. Today, HWHR continues to be the only New York organization serving the working class Haitian community, through organizing, outreach, and education.

Michele Garnett McKenzie works as Advocacy Director at The Advocates for Human Rights. As a staff attorney, she represents asylum seekers and immigration detainees. McKenzie is responsible for policy advocacy and community and coalition engagement around The Advocates’ priority issues,
including human trafficking, refugee rights,
and diaspora community engagement.

Co-Sponsored by the Immigration History Research Center.

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