Hola, President Obama!
This is father Gerard Jean-Juste from heaven. I’m sorry to call you at this time. You’re probably still recovering from jetlag.
I know. I’ve traveled the world in my fighting days. I’m pleased to see that President Sarkozy rolled the tapis rouge (French for the red carpet) for you, Michelle and the girls.
I wonder if Sarkozy would be as nice if you’d say to him, “By the way Mr. President, have you ever thought about paying reparations to the people of Haiti for over 200 years of slavery? For the indemnity they were forced to pay after defeating Napoleon? After a successful revolution, the only one of its kind! How about all the gold and natural riches that were stolen?”
Vraiment, je me le demande! ( I wonder, really). But this is not the reason for my long-distance call! Haiti has contributed a lot to the United States of America. When Africans held in bondage in Haiti defeated Napoleon’s army, the U.S. benefited by doubling both its size and power.
One thousand Haitians fought and died in the U.S. War of Independence. I understand that you acknowledged this contribution on May 18. If it were not for Haiti, America as we know it could have been a completely different place today!
Yet Haitians have faced discrimination foreign to other refugees and immigrants. No matter how strong the promise or how serious the conditions in Haiti, Haitians just can’t seem to get some slack.
The Bushes never hid their contempt for us. President Clinton made lavish promises, but did not keep them. He promised to change the racist policies of father Bush. Once elected, though, he arbitrarily returned thousands to Haiti’s inferno under the junta. Many died! He kept 20,000 more in a detention camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. He relented only after mass protests and hunger strikes by our supporters.
Mr. President, I really thought you would be different. I was sick during your campaign, but I did my part.
I prayed a lot for you and your family. Haitian-Americans, both Republicans and Democrats, were united pou voye-w monte (Creole for “bring you up”).
Indeed, this was a rare moment of unity for our people. There are 30,000 people who now face deportation ! Haiti is still reeling from the impact of four hurricanes. The rainy season has just started.
Already, 20 people have died!
I thought that signing TPS (temporary protective status) would be among your first actions as president. You are a father. Do you understand what it means for our families to live in fear? Let me explain it to you: You worked hard for 15 to 18 years, yet you can’t drive anymore. Your driver’s license has been revoked. When your child is sick, you can’t take him/her to the hospital. You’re raped, you can’t report the crime. With an ankle bracelet, you are geographically limited. You can’t feed your family here. You’ve lost everything you’ve worked for: your home, your job. Everything.
You can no longer help your family in Haiti! You pray that they don’t take to the sea in rickety boats in desperation and die! Mr. President, do you understand the hopelessness, the agony? Are you going to answer?
I heard that you were considering a proclamation to honor my contributions. I’m grateful, really! But forget the proclamation! Honor me by giving TPS to my brothers and sisters! They’ve suffered enough!
P.S. By the way, Mr. President, it is awesome here in heaven. Heed to my request without delay. Only then will I be at peace!
Au revoir, Mr. President! Click!
Marleine Bastien is the founder and executive director of Fanm Ayisyen Nan Miyami (FANM), or Haitian Women of Miami, Inc.