Written By: Anton Sawyer
Though I have never fully understood why, it seems the American political system has a special hatred for Haitians. We all know that anyone who isn’t (as the Mormons say) “white and delightsome” is often treated as a second-class citizen in many regards when it comes to American culture. With that said, even I’ve been surprised at the level of vitriol shown towards Haitians and their recent immigration attempts. That’s what the article today is going to look at. I’m going to examine the recent events at the US-Mexico border with the surge of Haitian immigrants, what is being done, and a look at historical events which we have actively ignored in the US that could lead to our economic downfall.
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Before we get too far into this mess, it should be made clear that I am not someone who is for a border free-for-all. I don’t feel we should open them and allow every single immigrant wanting a better life to come on in and grab some jobs. We have to make sure that our fellow American is able to thrive in their own life before being the savior to millions of others.
Conversely, as a student of human history, I have seen time and time again what can happen when xenophobia permeates an entire region and its fallout.
The best example I can give of this comes from the early 1970s in Uganda. After years of social and economic plight, Uganda President Idi Amin took the racism that was present in his countrymen and exploited it. He preyed on the fears of his people and had them utterly convinced that every Indian/Asian that lived in the country was the source of all ills. The people believed it, and within 90 days during the summer of 1972, 50,000 Asians were violently removed from the nation’s borders. Unsurprisingly, this purge solved nothing. In fact, this racist action decimated the Ugandan economy for many, many years. Knowing this, it’s imperative to understand that there is a definite need for immigrants to further any nation as a whole—economically or socially.
Now, let’s leap-frog time to 2021 and look at the current immigration nightmare involving processions of Haitian’s traveling towards the opportunity of freedom.
The month of September 2021 has seen a massive influx of Haitians approaching the US-Mexico border in Del Rio, Texas. During this month some 30,000 Haitian migrants tried to enter the country, surprising and overwhelming immigration officials. This influx has also led to the construction of a makeshift camp underneath the International Bridge. During this time, the camp swelled to a population of 15,000-plus. Over 15,000 people traveled thousands of miles and through 11 separate countries. All arriving as seekers of asylum in America. While more and more people arrived, the need for action became apparent. Which action to take specifically is one that has been bantered about in speeches and talking points from various Democratic leaders. Citing the dire conditions in Haiti, top Democratic lawmakers like Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer have urged the administration to stop the expulsion policy, which they have called a relic of President Trump's "inhumane" immigration agenda. Yet DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas responded with, "Working with Haiti, we felt it possible to return people to Haiti.” Yet later during his statements, Mayorkas also made it clear that there is no clear agreement when it comes to the next steps, conceding that the assessment of return has not "achieved unanimity of opinion." Given that both Biden and the Democratic National Committee have made humanitarian efforts (especially abroad) as a key component to their messaging, it’s hard to reconcile what they say and the direct results of what they ultimately decided on doing to/for the immigrants.
Between September 19 and September 27, 2021, 37 U.S. expulsion flights landed in Haiti with 3,936 migrants on board, including 2,300 parents and children who entered US border custody as families, according to Department of Homeland Security data. In many cases, these flights are guaranteeing more human suffering and death upon their return. "I don't think Haiti can really absorb thousands of homeless people, many of whom don't have family or support networks in the country, in this short amount of time," Adam Isacson, an analyst for the Washington Office on Latin America who monitors migration issues, told CBS News. "It's probably going to work to the advantage of gangs and extortionists who pretty much run vast parts of Port-au-Prince. These people are going to be exploited."
When looking at history though, it seems that Biden is just following the leads of every president and major political leader in America for generations. Haitians have sought asylum at US borders for decades; this is nothing new. What is relatively new is the fact that every presidential administration since the 1970s has treated Haitians differently than other migrant groups. From rejecting asylum claims to holding them longer in detention, and making it harder for them to settle down, they have had some of the toughest roads when it comes to living a life in safety.
For example, in the early 1990s, the United States had detained more than 12,000 Haitian refugees at Guantanamo indefinitely. When going through the asylum process, Immigration and Naturalization Services denied the vast majority of asylum seekers—with many of the reasons for denial being based on technicalities or were given excuses that were flimsy at best. “Policies were specifically designed to deter Haitians from coming in. These policies became the prototype for what became a global system of migrant incarceration,” says Carl Lindskoog, an author on the topic and professor of history at Raritan Valley Community College in New Jersey. Even when considering the atrocities befalling these Haitians for decades by 2021, I don’t think that Biden was expecting the “zeal” used by border patrol agents in dealing with the Haitian immigrants and their removal.
The videos of immigrants being whipped by those chasing them on horseback.
The complete lack of respect for human life.
The screaming and tears of women and children.
Because these images have been seen by millions of Americans in different media outlets, Biden had to respond. Denouncing their actions as “outrageous,” he vowed there would be consequences for the Border Patrol agents photographed riding horseback while swinging reins and charging at Haitian migrants trying to enter the country. "Those people will pay," he said in a statement. With as much as I have written previously about the mental faculties of the current and past president, Biden’s response even surprised me. Using a Trump-era policy to enact the removal of dark-skinned foreigners while utilizing a border patrol that has been known to use dubious tactics over the last decade or so, what did he think was going to happen?
Of course, the GOP had a slightly different viewpoint on these events. After the controversy became headlines, Republican Texas Governor Greg Abbott had a message for any federal agents who might get into trouble from their actions while appearing on "FOX News Sunday" with Chris Wallace. Abbott said the agents were “simply maneuvering horses.” Their actions were necessary, he added, because the Biden administration was failing at one of its most basic constitutional duties: to “secure the sovereignty of the United States of America.” If any agents lose their jobs, Abbott said he had a backup waiting for them. “I will hire you to help Texas secure our border.” Whenever there is a back-and-forth between the GOP and DNC when it comes to immigration policy, these are the responses you are guaranteed—all followed with “rinse and repeat.”
And that’s the core problem with every element of American immigration policy: inconsistency. Yes, there are going to be ideological differences when comparing Democrats and Republicans. But this issue and how to handle it are even causing differences of morality to cause division within the liberal faction.
Still, as we’ve seen through historical examples, whoever is president is going to force their own ideology through the party ranks and will modify the meaning/understandings of legal precedent to keep whomever they want out of the country. And more importantly, for those changes to remain that way. There are people in the government who have more access to the numbers and reality of immigration and its impact on our economy and society as a whole and can come up with far better answers than some armchair political jockey like myself. The one thing I am sure of when it comes to this topic is that we desperately need consistency—both in the creating of laws and their execution. We can’t look at someone seeking asylum from some horrible dictator and allow them in for some arbitrary reason, all while denying thousands of admittance for the same level of arbitrary reasons. If we want to be taken seriously as a world leader for our humanitarian efforts, we should set up rules and regulations that are consistent and can be used as a beacon of light for all. Right now, we are maybe at the level of a nightlight, at best.
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