Our Remarkable Failures Regarding Haiti

Robert Crohan/PantherNow

Robert Crohan/Staff Writer

Countless black families, most with only some of the bare necessities, were attempting to travel overland to a supposedly safe and promising part of the United States. But the state’s governor wanted no part in it and the federal government heard crickets. Thousands were kept under a bridge. Law enforcement took to horseback and attempted to round up these mothers, fathers, and sons to be incarcerated, wild west style, as they frantically attempted to escape.

Only this wasn’t in 1921. This was in 2021.

I have seen Black Americans erupt in outrage at our nation’s failures, and in solidarity towards the thousands seeking refuge from an increasingly chaotic Haiti.  But as expected, it is mostly black people doing this, and not everyone else. Our Miami is brightened by a diverse Haitian-American community, one that is playing a bigger role in our city and state’s identity and politics.

But as Beto O’Rourke pointed out, we should have seen this coming.

After the Cold War, we assumed leadership of global democracy, and the tremendous responsibility of holding diplomatic influence over our southern neighbors. As too many of us know from personal experience, the promise of democracy was often dismissed in favor of brute force and exploitation for countless decades. And this holds especially true for Haiti.

We have invaded the island country numerous times and enabled corruption and impoverishment through economic plundering via theft, coups and structural adjustment. As victims of communism came to America in masses, Haitians were intercepted at sea on their way to the states. In 1997, Haitians were explicitly left out of a bill offering protections to people seeking asylum from non-Black countries.

All of this happened while we erected impassable barriers to Haitian newcomers, in order to fulfill the strategic interest of keeping as many Haitians as possible out of America. In the meantime, Haiti’s natural and political disasters pile up. The President’s assassination in July, and the growing power of gangs in public areas, has collided with monstrous hurricanes and a pandemic in bludgeoning an already dying country.

As a matter of fact, many of the migrants at the border had left Haiti as long as a decade ago, and/or resettled in Latin America before traveling overland to the US. Many Sub-Saharan African migrants have taken a similar path.

As I have read in personal accounts, and suspected immediately, this is not solely a matter of Southern state governors fearing Democrat-voting Haitian bubbles, or South Floridians not wanting Haitians to replace Cubans as the largest cultural community in Miami. This is very clearly about race. Period.

Haitians are mistreated in Brazil. And Chile. And Florida. And Panama. And Texas.

We can have a debate about border security, and we do need to discourage illegal immigration. But the very least we, including Biden and Harris, can do is show some damn sympathy through action, not words.

Even amidst a labor shortage and slowing population growth, the administration justified the deportations owing to COVID-19. This is certainly valid, given that many virus variants were born in Latin America. But if this was the dominant concern, knowing mass migration from unstable countries is inevitable, the administration, and Republicans, would have invested in testing and uncrowded housing, distributing N95 masks, nourishment, and measures to keep families together.

It seems that Haiti’s problems have no reasonable end in the near future. Some analysts warn that it is becoming a failed state, leaving Haitian Americans, and Haitian migrants scattered across Latin America, in the dark. This comes after much aid, a sign that current strategies need rethinking, and the widely-understood reality that exploitation awaits the expelled migrants.

And how ironic that Mexico, not America, is the state welcoming more migrants, as US lawmakers are caught up in partisan bickering. Texas governor Greg Abbott, a hard-right Republican, offered jobs to the abusive border patrol officers on horseback, just after President Biden called them out.

Given our history of deadly missteps towards Haiti and the broader Caribbean, and the growing needs of Haitians that cannot be solved in the immediate future, or by Western leaders alone, a just approach is no longer an option. It is a requirement.

So, what is there to do? Some actions seem like straightforward first steps. Repeal Title 42, reduce deportations and give as many as possible a pathway to citizenship, understand Haiti’s situation, give agencies like the Inter-American Foundation and the Peace Corps more room to invest in Haiti while giving the reins to Haitians themselves. And most importantly, listen.

No good change can come without the willingness to engage, and the track record of doing so. Haitians must lead the fight for their liberation. My readings on Caribbean politics, and conversations with friends, have given me a better idea of what systems can work for Caribbean countries, and the tools to succeed must be available. Gone must be the days where Haiti was mistreated owing to strategic interest.

America has the money and resources to resettle these new arrivals in our borders. After all, we poured billions into the largely failed War in Afghanistan. And relatively declining states that have not used pandemic aid money, like New York, have the capacity to reorient resources towards newcomers.

And we should listen, too, because Haitians may very well find the US more hostile to their safety and interests and prefer to live in their home country.

Haiti is a beautiful nation, people, and culture. Its diaspora’s strength and resolve inspire me to learn more about Haiti and sustainable solutions to its crises that will not reinforce old problems. Likewise, every source of migration must be understood, as the picture changes and Haiti and Central America become the dominant source areas of migrants, instead of Mexico.

Whether lawmakers like it or not, change is needed, and swift delivery is vital.


The opinions presented within this page do not represent the views of PantherNOW Editorial Board. These views are separate from editorials and reflect individual perspectives of contributing writers and/or members of the University community

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