I met Michael in the winter of 1992, at the height of the Haitian
refugee crisis. The National Coalition for Haitian Refugee (NCHR) being
at the center of advocacy to not only defend the due process rights of
Haitian refugees, but also for the return of the democratically elected
president of Haiti. Through a phone call that February, to NCHR, Michael
was reporting abuse being committed by US Military personnel on the
Guantanamo Naval Base (GTMO) on incarcerated Haitian Refugees fleeing a
brutal military government.
For next year and half I would come to know a man who is fearless,
committed, caring and humble.
Michael was a fearless soul and attorney. He was not concerned whether
you were the richest person on the planet or the most powerful – if a
wrong was being committed, rest assured – you will hear his opinion.
He was committed to Justice for one and for all. Wherever or whenever
one’s rights were violated, unpopular or otherwise, he was there to
denounce the violator.
Michael was a loving and caring family man to his immediate and his
Despite the fact that Michal reached, through his work, a certain
notoriety, he remained humble and was always seeking counsel and advice
on any given issue. I remember, once on GTMO, the legal team
representing the Haitian refugees, of which he was a co-counsel, was in
a meeting – out the blue Michael reached out to me to provide some
advice on the subject matter. Additionally, Michael in the middle of the
annual gathering of the American Lawyers Guild, in 1993, asked me to
deliver the keynote speech, in lieu of the deposed Haitian President
Jean Bertrand Aristide.
I am so privileged to have made that right turn to meet Michael. He
meant so much to so many. But for me, Michael, in a span of a year,
built my confidence and made me believe in myself. More than twenty
years later, I have been able to use that level confidence to advocate
for the voiceless and speak on their behalf whenever they needed to be
Michael was a colleague, but most importantly he was my friend.