A partial happy ending may be salvaged for a 24-year-old Haitian immigrant whose 18-month-old daughter drowned on her secret journey to St. Thomas in January, 2006. Nadine Charles left the territory to travel to Florida, where her quest for asylum will continue. Charles’ case was transferred to the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Rights group, attorney Ravinder S. Nagi, Chair of the International Practice Group of Tom Bolt & Associates, P.C. said Tuesday.
Charles had her first plane ride last weekend after a one-day delay caused by the mass of travel documents that Customs agents at King Airport had to go through – causing her to miss her original travel date, Nagi said. "Our efforts were to get her the appropriate representation in Florida, where she has family," Nagi said.
The advocacy rights group has a Haitian asylum program and two Haitian attorneys who specialize in immigration cases. Nagi said that Charles will receive pro bono assistance with her asylum application from the Florida group.
The decision to move Charles to Florida came immediately after a United States Department of Justice Immigration judge’s decision to move the case. On Nov. 29, Judge Irma Defillo granted a motion for change of venue.
Charles remained in constant contact with deportation officer Roy Rogers, who authorized her travel. Charles is scheduled to meet with the Miami attorneys Monday. "There’s so much available for her there," said Nagi, who has worked closely with Charles and guided her through the immigration process.
The community, local and abroad, bonded with Charles after the Jan. 25 death of her daughter Eunice. The child’s body was found at 2:35 a.m. in a patch of high grass near the fence on the corner of a Smith Bay church property on Smith Bay Road.
Charles turned herself in to police when smugglers failed to tell her how the child was doing after they promised Charles that they had taken the lifeless Eunice to a doctor. Charles was detained at a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention center in Puerto Rico, while community members planned the child’s funeral. Immigration officials released Charles on her own recognizance in time for the funeral, which was organized by Maria Ferreras, Efrain Feliciano, Hans Oriole and others.
A trust fund was set up for Charles through Tom Bolt & Associates, P.C. Donations of clothing and hygiene products helped Charles take care of her personal needs during the past 10 months, said Ferreras, who continues to look out for Charles’ well-being.
Charles, who cannot seek employment because of her pending immigration status, still needs the community’s help, Feliciano said.
"Funds that were received have been depleted, and she is still a woman in need of help," said Feliciano, who built a father-daughter bond with Charles. The public is encouraged to send financial donations to the Nadine Charles Account in care of Tom Bolt & Associates Escrow Account, 5600 Royal Dane Mall, St. Thomas, VI 00802 or call (340) 774-2944.