Federal authorities in Miami have charged six Haitians with immigrant smuggling one day after more than 200 Haitians streamed to shore outside the city from an overcrowded boat.
The six men are charged with coordinating the trip and operating the 16-meter wooden freighter that transported the illegal immigrants from Haiti's northern coast.
U.S. Attorney Marco Jimenez says he will request that the men be held pending trial. "Alien smuggling not only violates our laws, but it is well-known in our community that it endangers and costs many lives," he explained.
If convicted, the men face up to 10 years in prison.
Meanwhile, anger has reached the boiling point among Haitian-Americans in south Florida.
Across Miami, Haitian-Americans have been demonstrating virtually non-stop ever since authorities rounded up the would-be immigrants from a highway and bused them to a detention center outside Miami.
Jacques Despinose is one of a multitude of voices demanding that the new arrivals be freed. "We want the Haitians to be released," he said. "We want them to have the right to go before a judge [to plead their asylum case] like everybody else."
Haitian-Americans bitterly complain that the vast majority of their countrymen who sail for U.S. shores are repatriated, while all Cubans who make it to U.S. soil are allowed to stay. Johnson Dormeus says there is a double-standard, and it is not fair.
"If they [U-S officials] give the Cuban people freedom, they have to give the Haitian people freedom, too," he stressed.
Hundreds of Haitian-Americans protested Wednesday at the Miami offices of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service. They also hounded Florida Governor Jeb Bush during a campaign event in the city. Governor Bush, who is running for reelection, is the younger brother of President Bush, a fact that was not lost on the protesters.