Deport the Haitians

Posted: Nov 05, 2002 12:00 AM
One could be forgiven for thinking so, given the criticism of the treatment of the 220 illegal Haitian immigrants who splashed ashore in Miami the other day. That the Immigration and Naturalization Service rounded up the Haitians, detained them and will very likely ship them all back home is a cause of great outrage for the perpetually outraged Congressional Black Caucus. "It is plainly and simply a racist policy that singles out black Haitians," says Rep. Carrie Meek, D-Fla. Florida Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bill McBride agrees: "Certainly it's racist, no question about it." This is a slur, plain and simple, made by people in the practice of calling "racist" anything they happen not to like. The fact is that the 220 detained Haitians are exactly where they belong, and the only problem with U.S. immigration policy is that Cubans should probably be treated the same way. If Cubans had been on that same boat outside Miami, they would have been automatically "paroled" into the United States as soon as they touched ground, and slated for a green card a year later. Quite a contrast. But, as Mark Krikorian of the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Immigration Studies points out, U.S. policy does not discriminate against Haitians, rather it favors Cubans. If a boatload of would-be immigrants from any other country in the globe showed up on America's shores, they would be deported just like the recently arrived Haitians, whether they were Bosnians or Chinese. Race has nothing to do with it. After all, it's not as though Cuba is lily-white -- according to Cuban census figures, 51 percent of Cubans are mulatto, and 10 percent are black. It's not race, but Cold War nostalgia that accounts for the Cuban exception. When Fidel Castro was chief of the Soviet empire's Latin American Division, a policy of welcoming all Cubans made geopolitical sense. The Cuban Adjustment Act of 1966 enshrined this policy into law, and it remains on the books today. President Clinton scaled back the policy a bit with a wet-foot/dry-foot distinction. Cubans who are intercepted at sea are sent back unless they have claim of political asylum, while those who make it to shore are still welcomed. With Castro no longer the vanguard of a global threat, but a more routine Third World dictator, the automatic entrance for "dry-foot" Cubans becomes less defensible and should be phased out. The one area where Haitians are truly treated differently from everyone else is that they are detained in the U.S. automatically, while other asylum-seekers might be, but aren't necessarily. The INS maintains this lockup policy to discourage the sort of massive potential influx that, because of their proximity, only Haiti and Cuba are capable of. (Castro prevents a mass flight on his end by locking his people in Cuba.) If Haitian asylum-seekers have been persecuted or have a well-founded fear of persecution, they can become refugees like the persecuted fleeing any other country. And there is no doubt that there are some legitimate refugees from Haiti, where President Jean-Bertrand Aristide grievously misrules his country, employing goon squads to beat up, torture and kill opponents. The irony is that the same members of the Congressional Black Caucus who advocate for Haitian boat people pressured President Clinton to return the ousted Aristide back to power on the strength of a U.S. expeditionary force in 1994. This was an excellent example of left-wing imperialism in action -- the United States installed a radical anti-American ruler to power, to trash his country. The Congressional Black Caucus still invited Aristide (he declined) as an honored guest to its annual Washington dinner last month, apparently unable to decide whether it has more sympathy for those fleeing the consequences of Aristide's rule or for the fiery old thug himself. The caucus squares this circle the usual way: by pretending the Haitian boat people are not the victims of the disaster the caucus helped sponsor back home, but of "racism."