Speaker Highlights Ongoing Turmoil in Haiti
April 8, 2009 — Political upheaval has rocked Haiti for decades, but the global economic crisis is hitting the island nation especially hard, immigration and human rights attorney Tom Griffin said during a visit to Earle Mack School of Law on April 8.
"Haiti is hell on earth in a lot of ways," Griffin said, in a talk sponsored by Earle Mack School of Law's International Law and Human Rights Society, the Black Law Student Association, Christian Law Students, National Lawyers Guild, Health Law Society and Latin American Law Student Association.
Griffin, a founder of The LAMP for Haiti Foundation, said Haitians have been buffeted by a series of dictatorships and coups since the nation declared its independence from France in 1801.
But based his observations during a visit to Haiti in February, Griffin said conditions in the country are the worst in many years, with some of the disorder coming from police and military forces provided by the United Nations.
"They're on-loan officers from countries like China and Jordan - they come to Haiti to make extra money," Griffin said. "There's bullets flying everywhere, and they're scared out of their minds. They don't speak Haitian Creole."
Griffin recounted how the mothers of five babies pleaded with him to take their children to the U.S. to escape the poverty and chaos.
Supporters of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide are routinely imprisoned and tortured by his opponents, Griffin said, adding that some 4,000 men are being held in a prison designed for 800.
"We're trying to establish some justice programs and health-care programs that will work in association with the government," Griffin said, urging Earle Mack School of Law students to assist with the nation's overwhelming legal issues.
Ted Oswald, a 1L at Earle Mack School of Law who visited Haiti with Griffin in February, said he hopes to develop a legal service project that will expose more students to the opportunities to do human-rights work.
"Haiti has so many issues," Oswald said. "There are definitely ways that American law students can make a difference.
More News »