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

The Gulf Today - - FOCUS - BY ROB CURRAN

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.

HIS­TOR­I­CAL EV­I­DENCE

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.

Agence France-presse

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.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UAE

© PressReader. All rights reserved.