SHAME ON YOU, PRESIDENT
The poverty, violence, despair and dysfunctionality of nations such as El Salvador and Haiti are the very conditions that engendered modern refugee and asylum policies. Picking on these people individually would be an act of bullying. Picking on them as a
Onthursday,presidentdonald Trump reportedly asked a roomful of legislators why they would allow immigrants from a “shithole country” like Haiti into the US.
He has denied the epithet but not the sentiment.
So allow me to answer that question. First, America should accept immigrants from Haiti because Haiti IRST ACCEPTED IMMIGRANTS FROM THE US.
My wife, Texas Woman’s University history Professor Sara Fanning, wrote a book called “Caribbean Crossing: African Americans and the Haitian Emigration Movement.” In case Trump did not read the book during his no-doubt exhaustive research on the immigration question, I will break it down to something closer to tweet form.
In the 1820s and again in the 1850s, thousands of free African Americans emigrated from New York, Boston, Philadelphia and other American cities to Haiti. Following a slave revolt against France in the 19th century, Haiti had become the second republic in the Western hemisphere and one of only three — including the US and France — on earth. Haiti was also one of the wealthiest nations in the Western hemisphere, having retained a big share of the global sugar trade.
There were few opportunities for black people in major American cities in the early 19th century. They received a fraction of the wages earned by white peers and faced laws that denied them the right to vote. When then-haitian President Jean-pierre Boyer provided incentives for passage to Haiti, many leaders of the black community, including Philadelphia’s Richard Allen, rejoiced at the prospect of deliverance for their people to a nation where they would be treated as equals.
Boyer had his own reasons for attracting immigrants, of course. Among those reasons was a basic economic fact: In a nation shorthanded for labour (as the greying US is today) immigrants, even unskilled immigrants, are a positive for economic growth. If you don’t believe me, ask Dallas Federal Reserve President Robert Kaplan, who is nobody’s idea of a bleeding-heart liberal.
“Immigrants and their children have made up over half the workforce growth in this country over the last 20 years. They’re likely to need to make up more than half in the next 20,” Kaplan said in August, according to CNBC.COM.
Second, the US should accept Haitian immigrants because the US was actively involved in the ruin of Haiti.
In the 19th century, the US refused TO RECOGNISE THE LEDGLING NATION’S Independence or trade with it on equal terms, largely because the Haitian republic was anathema to the slave lobby. Not only did Haitian sugar represent competition to plantationproduced sugar, slave owners were TERRIIED OF ACKNOWLEDGING THAT FREED slaves could produce a functioning state. Even as the US imposed tariffs on Haitian goods, it relied on Haiti as one of its biggest export markets.
Since then, the US has had an abusive relationship with Haiti, intermittently steamrolling into and withdrawing from the country. US Marines invaded Haiti in 1915 and occupied the nation for nearly 20 years, killing many who resisted. The US intervened once again in 1994, reinstalling Jean-bertrand Aristide as premier.
The US takes responsibility for Puerto Rico, another Caribbean island where it asserted its military and economic power. It must take some responsibility for a similar role in Haiti.
Third, the US should accept Haitian immigrants because, among them, there could be people like Aubry Ednerson Constant.
I accompanied my wife on a research trip to Haiti in 2014, more than four years after the earthquake that encouraged the State Department to give Haitians protected status in the US. We stayed in the Delmas section of Port-au-prince, where many of the shacks still lacked roofs and the roads were still clogged with churned-up mounds of earth and debris. We saw people hand-washing their clothes in stagnant pools and we saw sewage trickling along the side of the street.
In Delmas, we also met Constant, a man brimming with warmth, smiles and compliments for the US. In the wake of the earthquake, Constant had opened up his own home as a charitable community center. Doctors from overseas used his house as a clinic. Food banks distributed food from his home. And in this house, Constant and others taught dance and art classes for children because, he said, they needed a bit of joy in their lives.
I dare Trump to pay a visit to Constant’s home in Delmas. It is, admittedly, not so impressive as Trump Tower. It is only a one-story house and contains few rooms or furniture and yet the president may appreciate how Constant has clearly branded it (though Constant has marked the exterior walls with the name of his charity, ASAPH, rather than his own name).
I dare Trump to look Constant in the eye and tell him what he thinks of Haiti.
NOT THE FIRST
Trump’s rhetoric on immigration may seem original to one who does not read history. He is not, however, THE IRST PERSON TO PICK ON IMMIGRANTS.
Try reading W.H. Auden’s “Refugee Blues” and substitute “Haitians” or “El Salvadorans” for “German Jews.” TRUMP’S NOT EVEN THE IRST PERSON TO PICK on impoverished Haitian immigrants. Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo victimised Haitians decades ago.
The poverty, violence, despair and dysfunctionality of nations such as El Salvador and Haiti are the very conditions that engendered modern refugee and asylum policies. Picking on these people individually would be an act of bullying. Picking on them as a group is an act of tyranny.
Shame on you, President Trump. And shame on us all if we stand by while thousands of the world’s forgotten people are forcibly removed from their homes.
People join together to mark the 8th anniversary of the massive earthquake in Haiti and to condemn President Donald Trump’s reported statement about immigrants from Haiti, Africa and El Salvador on Friday, in Miami, Florida.