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Haitian Americans are stuck in Haiti as gangs attack

Haitian Americans explain why they're staying in Haiti despite political unrest and violence
Haitian Americans explain why they're staying in Haiti despite political unrest and violence 03:32

MIAMI Haiti is under attack by local gangs who are ravishing the small nation's capital and surrounding cities. They tried taking over Toussaint Louverture International Airport in Haiti in what officials are calling the largest.

Miami Herald Carribean correspondent discusses Haiti civil unrest 04:11

The U.S. State Department has issued multiple travel warnings asking Americans and State Department employees to stay put and be careful while on the island.

At Miami and Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airports, all flights in and out of Haiti's two airports are canceled. Despite many warnings, countless Haitian Americans are still on the island. For them, Haiti is home and leaving is complicated.

The sister of CBS News Miami's Tania Francois is one of those people. We are not using her name for her protection.

"I've been stuck in my city where I'm living now for about two months," she said. "Trying to make it into Port Au Prince so I can fly to the States, and I just can't leave."

She now calls Haiti home. She's adopted a son and also runs an orphanage but like many Haitian Americans, the violence and unrest have stopped her from being able to travel. Since February, she's been trying to get to a doctor's appointment here in South Florida.

"I was supposed to leave again for Port Au Prince tomorrow, but the airports have been closed," she added. "Sunrise, which flies in through Port Au Prince into the United States, JetBlue, American Airlines, Spirit — they've all canceled flights."

Kareen Ulysse operates Centre Hospitalier de Fontaine. She too is a Haitian American working in Haiti. The hospital, which is also an orphanage, is in Cite Soleil a suburb of Port au Prince.

"We work literally in the ghettos for the most vulnerable people and there's no help, there's no one really standing in line to help people like them," she said.

She's in the heart of where some of the worst gang violence is currently happening. Ulysse moved back to take over for her father.

"The mothers can't get jobs. So they're in my care. So that's how I ended up with 17 little ones," she said. "And right now and sometimes people give birth at the hospital, they don't come back for them. So I take them home and the orphanage is in my house."

This is also why Ulysse can't leave. She says despite hearing gunfire from just yards away from her door steps she says the work she's doing is far greater.

"I'm here to see this through. My will to fight for good is, has to be just as strong, if not stronger than their will to destroy. So I'm here for the long run," she said. "This is home. I don't have a plan B so this, I left everything in the States and I'm here."

Cancelled flights mean the help that usually flows into Haiti is halted making the situation there more dire. For more information on the work that Kareen Ulysse is doing, you can go to

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