BOSTON -- A former U.S. military base in Puerto Rico is unfit for people and will be a 'concentration camp' for 800 Haitian refugees if they are transferred there from Miami, said an attorney trying to stop the move.
Pedro Varela, representing the Puerto Rican town of Juana Diaz, Thursday urged the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to block the transfer.
'Fort Allen is going to be used as a concentration camp,' he said.
Residents in Juana Diaz, a community near the proposed detention site, fear the transfer could spread malaria and overtax sewage treatment facilities.
Varela said the hurricane season is approaching and Fort Allen is in such poor condition it cannot be used to house hundreds of people.
U.S. Associate Attorney General Rudolph W. Giuliani asked the court to overturn a lower court order prohibiting the transfer, and said Fort Allen would be habitable.
Giuliani said the refugees would be medically screened and that sewage would be disposed of by private contractors, as part of a consent agreement with Puerto Rico.
Both lawyers used photographs of Fort Allen to argue their cases. Varela's showed tents in disrepair and he said 'the federal government is not making direct representations of what reality is showing in Puerto Rico.'
'Nobody wants these people,' said Giuliani, the third-ranking official of the Justice Department. 'It's a tragedy.'
Because most Haitians, unlike the Cubans, did not flee their country to seek political asylum in the United States, Giuliani said 'they do not fit the definition of refugee,' and cannot stay.
'They left because they were starving,' he said.
Puerto Rico has agreed to take 800 Haitians but some residents objected.
There are now an estimated 25,000 Haitian refugees throughout the United States, including more than 1,500 at the crowded Florida facility.