U.S.-Haiti Immigration Policy Wins No Friends And Influences No People


In a page
out of the "it`s a small world" book, former president
Bill Clinton
and I have something more in common than our

gray hair
.

Both of us
made our first trip to
Haiti
about thirty-five years ago.

At the
time, Clinton was a young, recently-defeated Arkansas
Congressional candidate traveling with his bride,
Hillary.

Remembering Haiti, Clinton said that he became entranced by

voodoo
religion and
culture.
According to Clinton, he watched
"with fascination" a
ceremony in which a man rubbed a

flaming torch
all over his body without getting burned and a
woman biting the head off a live chicken.

Recalled
the budding multiculturalist Clinton:
"I`ve always been
fascinated by the way different cultures try to make sense of
life, nature and the virtually universal belief that there is a
nonphysical spirit force at work in the world that existed
before humanity and will be here when we all are long gone."

[Bill
Clinton`s Second Chance in Haiti
, by Karen Tumulty,
Time.com, May 19, 2009]

In
contrast, I came away from Haiti with distinctly less favorable
impression.

As
part of a business roundtable investment banking group sent to
the Caribbean Islands to promote commerce, I viewed Haiti from a
strictly practical perspective.

Over a ten
day period, our group traveled to Jamaica, Trinidad, the

Dominican Republic
and Haiti.

By the
time we arrived in Haiti, our last stop, I had developed a
personal game plan. I would go to the meetings, attend the
lunches and tour the islands in the chauffeured car provided by
our hosts since I was certain that they would drive us only to
the most beautiful spots.


Otherwise I would stay in our

resort hotel
. I knew that if I stuck to

its beaches
and

tennis courts
, I`d be fine. Venturing into Port-au-Prince
was, and still is, a

step into hell
.

Growing up
in
Puerto Rico
, I had seen plenty of poverty in the major
cities and up in the mountains. While I never saw any
headless
chickens
or watched witchcraft in Puerto Rico,
I did
see
naked children with distended bellies playing in front
of their ramshackle huts.

Although
in the early 1970s I didn`t know anything about federal
immigration policy, when I
returned to New
York
from my island trip, I understood why Haitians would do
anything—even risking their lives on rickety rafts—to get to
America.

Clinton is
now the recently-appointed UN Special Envoy to Haiti and
Hillary
is the Secretary of State just back from Haiti where she
delivered $300 million in US aid. [Clinton,
in Visit to Haiti, Brings Aid and Promises Support
, by Mark
Lander, New York Times, April 16, 2009]

And now,
decades later,
I know
plenty
about immigration.

What
I
understand more clearly
than either of the two Clintons is
that Haiti is still in the same miserable condition it was when
they observed the

voodoo
rituals. Since
billions in
foreign aid
over decades has not helped Haiti one iota,
Clinton might as well put a match to our $300 million.

On the
other hand, U.S. immigration policy creates a large part of
Haiti`s instability.

In all the
years that have passed since I visited
Haiti,
three things related to the island and immigration have happened
or, depending on how you look at it, not happened.



  • Economically, Haiti is in

    worse shape
    today than in the 1970s.



  • U.S.
    immigration policy has done little to discourage illegal
    immigration. Nothing underscores federal immigration ineptitude
    more than our Haitian (vis-a vis our

    Cuban
    ) policy.




  • U.S.
    failure to internally
    enforce
    existing immigration law has encouraged more Haitian
    illegal aliens to come to the U.S. knowing that if they get
    to America, they may be able to avoid deportation

Reviewing
the pattern developed over recent decades, the numbers of
Haitian who annually cross

the 700-miles
to the Florida coast by raft or unseaworthy
sail boats range from several dozen to hundreds. What the alien
navigations never do is abate.

The latest
incident occurred in April when a raft carrying twenty-four
people capsized. 
Twenty died. [Haitian
Migrants Drown After Boat Capsizes Off the Bahamas
,
by
Tosheena Robinson-Blair, Associated Press, April 22, 2009]

For
those who survived, their future is uncertain.

Unlike
Cuban migrants who are put on a path to citizenship because of
the
"wet-foot, dry-foot" policy
, Haitians are not given a free pass.
They can apply for amnesty, a dice roll at best. Or they can
sink into the underground economy where, since the Haitians
generally have no marketable job skills, they can be

exploited
by the unscrupulous.

Another
potential outcome for Haitians: the ever-present prospect of
temporary protected
status
. Even though Haitians have consistently been denied
TPS, as well as
deferred
enforced departure
which has been granted to refugees from

other Central American and African countries
, their
American-based lobbyists always hold out hope.

Good news
for the Haitians may soon be forthcoming, however. President
Barack Obama is predictably contemplating making exactly the
wrong move regarding
Haitian
immigration.

Specifically, as

reported
in August by our Patrick Cleburne,
Obama`s
administration
is reconsidering
issuing TPS
to

Haitians
. Once the prospect of any type of amnesty gets
floated, illegal immigration is sure to follow. In the case of
Haitians that means more deaths at sea.

In his
blog, Cleburne asked the hard question: What is the
value
added
when Haitians come to the U.S?

In
America, unlike Haiti, voodoo isn`t our unofficial

national religion
. The

culture of crime
in Haiti is pervasive, another thing the
U.S.

doesn`t need more of
.

An
interesting side note is that other countries into which
Haitians have migrated eagerly want to deport them. In a
Dominican Republic sweep earlier this month, more than 200
Haitians living illegally in the country with which they share a
border were deported. Other large groups of aliens escaped when
they were tipped off that a raid was in progress. [Dominican
Republic Deports 163 Haitians
, Latin American Herald Tribune
,
July 23 2009]

The

Dominican reaction
to Haitian immigration is much like our
own toward all immigration.


Estimating that as many as one million Haitians live in the
Dominican Republic, state officials are concerned that the
illegal aliens have taken jobs and worry that many natives may
go without medical care because free treatment is given to
immigrants.

In the
worst cases, Haitians cross illegally every day to beg on the
street or work in the sugar cane fields.


Officials in

neighboring Barbados
also view its current levels of
immigration

skeptically
. According to Denis Kellman, Barbados`s
Ambassador to the


"Caribbean Community and Common Market,"

the free movement of people
"would always create a
problem"
and add that:
"we have accepted enough people into Barbados as it is."

I`m
sorry to report that our group of bankers didn`t raise any money
or even generate any interest stateside in Haitian investment.


Haiti`s political instability, poverty, illiteracy, an
unschooled labor pool and rampant disease killed off whatever
foreign investment prospects there might have been.

The U.S.
has a laundry list of errors made in Haiti dating back to

1915
when it

first occupied the island
, continuing through the

Duvalier
and
two
Aristide eras
, and going right up to our modern two-faced
immigration policy that allows poor, black and desperate Cubans
into the country and puts them on a path to citizenship while
deporting the equally poor, black and desperate Haitians.


America`s best strategy would be to end Cuba`s easy access while
keeping our Haitian deportation stance intact.

When it
comes to Haitians, the U.S. cannot hold out

amnesty`s lure
, offer TPS or permit craven employers to hire
the most unskilled of their lot without prosecuting them to the
maximum that the law allows.

At the
same time, Haitians have to step up for themselves.

Eight of ten
Haitians with college degrees live outside
Haiti. Any Haitian who
earns
his degree
in the U.S. must sign an agreement to return upon
graduation.

If
Haitians truly want better lives for themselves, then, even
though it will be a decades-long climb, Haitians and not
Americans will have to make it happen.

Joe Guzzardi
[email
him]
is a California native
who recently fled the state because of over-immigration,
over-population and a rapidly deteriorating quality of life. He
has moved to Pittsburgh, PA where the air is clean and the
growth rate stable.
A
long-time instructor in English at the Lodi Adult School,
Guzzardi has been writing a weekly column since 1988. It
currently appears in the


Lodi News-Sentinel.