Who in his or her right mind would want to send anyone right now to live in Haiti, a desperately impoverished country nearly destroyed by a killer earthquake, racked now by political unrest and being ravaged by cholera?
Apparently the folks at U.S. Information and Customs Enforcement, that’s who, the ones who have made such an unconscionable decision.
Following the earthquake, which killed between 300,000 and perhaps a million people and devastated the nation’s physical infrastructure, the Obama administration took the humane step of halting all deportation proceedings against Haitians living without legal documentation in the U.S. That ban was meant to be temporary. For some reason that only they would understand, the administration has now decided that it is time to lift the ban for Haitians with criminal records. Some 89 of them have already been arrested and detained pending deportation.
It could be argued that these Haitians, by having criminal records, must be deported. But that is not the humane step to take at this time.
Indeed, every time the government moves against Haitians, it inevitably raises the issue of the vastly different policies which are applied to Haitians and other nationalities, particularly Cubans. Except for a brief window of opportunity opened by then President Jimmy Carter in the 1980s, Haitians have always been regarded as “economic refugees” whereas Cubans and others are categorized as fleeing political persecution.
This is not simply bad for the image of the country; it is just contrary to what America stands for. Casting a long shadow over our immigration policy towards the Haitian people is an unstated belief that because they are poor and black, they are not good enough to live in the U.S. and everything must be done to keep them out. We hide that belief under the thin veneer of immigration policy at the same time that we refuse to accept the fact that it was our foreign policy towards Haiti that led the country to ruin and poverty under the Duvaliers, our protégés, and the cabal that surrounded them.
It makes you want to weep.