America broke Haiti, now it must stop meddling and start fixing

By Carlton Joseph

Carlton Joseph

Last week scenes of white Caucasian border patrol police on horseback corralling Black Haitians in Texas were repulsive, disgusting and unacceptable.  This is America in the twenty-first century, obviously not much different from the fifteenth century, in that we have a minority of white Americans, many of them with very little education, working in border control, and the police forces, and another highly educated segment, who seek political power and are in the state and national Congresses.  This small “core” seeks employment in areas where they have power over people’s lives and especially enjoys exercising that power over Black people.  

The excitement on the faces and the attitude of these border patrol agents while they are treating human beings like cattle, tell the story – they believe Black people are animals and treat them as such.  Predictably, the racist governor of Texas, Gregg Abbott, promised to hire the same border agents accused of whipping Haitian migrants if they’re fired by President Biden. Money is the only constant in the minds of these racist, so Abbott asked President Biden to declare a federal emergency and provide resources to help state and local authorities cope with the migrant surge.

To understand why Haitian believe that they should come to the United States (US), we must put it in historical perspective – over the past two hundred years, the US has dominated the economic and political activities of Haiti and is primarily responsible for its underdevelopment.

Haiti was the first state in the world to be formed from a successful revolt of slaves and the first modern state to abolish slavery.  The US refused to recognize Haiti as a country for sixty years because Southern plantation owners in the US feared revolts from their own slaves should they learn of the Haitian revolution.  Worst, the US and France subjected Haiti to an economic embargo; the US sanctions lasted 48 years.

In 1915 the US Marine Corps invaded Haiti, and remained in the country for almost twenty years, the military shaped the country’s government and created the country’s national army, which is responsible for the coups and violation of human rights witnessed today. The US controlled customs, collected taxes and ran many government institutions.  Essentially, the people of Haiti were subjects of the US; usually subjects are given citizenship, which is why Haitians have a right to come to the US.

The US control and abuse of this country is appalling, the US forced Haitians to live under François “Papa Doc” Duvalier, and later his son Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier for a total of twenty-nine years (1957-1986).  During that time the US and financial institutions, IMF, World Bank, devastated the country, forcing them to open their markets to the world, which was primarily responsible for destroying Haiti’s economy.

In 1991, just when the world thought that the election of Jean-Bertrand Aristide (with 67% of the vote), who received tremendous support from the Black poor of Haiti, would herald a new era for the country, the US-trained military overthrew Aristede’s government, and the country descended into chaos.  Aristide returned from exile and became President in 2000 with over 90% of the vote.  In 2004, the US again destroyed democracy in Haiti when they supported another coup against Aristide.

Haitians on the US border

Even in natural disasters the US has found a way to punish and abuse the country.  After a magnitude 7 earthquake shook the country in 2010, former President Bill Clinton was appointed by President Obama to co-chair the Haiti Recovery Commission. The Commission was put there to manage almost $10 billion which was pledged to Haiti; $3 billion was given to charities that sent thousands of volunteers to build new roads, schools, government buildings and permanent, earthquake-proof housing.  The commission was abandoned after two years with only 2.3 billion spent. 

Worst, the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) 2013 reported that USAID had underestimated the cost of infrastructure and housing projects, forcing it to substantially reduce the number of homes it originally planned to help build. Furthermore, most USAID contracts went to non-Haitian companies, leaving local businesses out of any reconstruction projects. Additionally, a National Public Radio (NPR) investigation revealed that even the American Red Cross received half a billion dollars from donors and only built six homes.

This is why Haitians should come to America because the US assumed full authority to run the country but accepts no responsibility for the poverty and misery it has inflicted on the people, and the economic and political chaos it has unleashed in the country.  Texas Senator Ted Cruz  saying: “Haitians are invading our country, and need to be deported,” is ridiculous, and demonstrates his ignorance of US involvement in Haiti, or his disdain for Haitians.

Jacqueline Charles, Emmy Award-winning Caribbean Correspondent at the Miami Herald, in an interview on Democracy Now, described the perilous journey through the Amazon that thousands of Haitians have been taking since 2010. It also spoke of the Brazilian government’s provision of humanitarian visas and employing them on projects needed for the World cup and Olympics. 

After the Olympics there was no work so they entered Chile which accepted 100,000 Haitians, but work was unavailable. They then moved to Venezuela but the border was closed, because Haiti changed its allegiance from Venezuela to the United States.  They then journeyed through the jungles of South America, some walking and paying money to transporters to get them into Mexico, and finally, under a bridge in Texas.

America must acknowledge that she has created the problem and must provide a humane solution.  Daniel Foote, US Special envoy to Haiti in his resignation letter wrote: “I will not be associated with the United States’ inhumane, counterproductive decision to deport thousands of Haitian refugees and illegal immigrants to Haiti, a country where American officials are confined to secure compounds because of the dangers posed by armed gangs in control of daily life.”  

Biden recently decided to end America’s involvement in endless wars. He now needs to end America’s endless catastrophic involvement in political and economic interventions in Haiti, beginning with the dismantling of the Non-Government Organization (NGO) system in Haiti.  

Many NGOs work outside of the government, and most are not even registered with the government, the result is that monies from donors, charities, and the US government never reach the Haitian treasury, making it difficult for the government to function.

America also needs to change its food aid program to Haiti.  Currently, the food aid is heavily subsidized by the US government so that it benefits American farmers, allowing them to flood the Haitian market, driving prices of local produce down, forcing Haitian farmers to give up their farms. For instance, American farmers have dumped millions of tons of US subsidized rice and sugar into Haiti, undercutting their farmers and ruining Haitian agriculture.

The Haitian migrants have exposed a deep fissure in American immigration policy. Congressional Democrats see them as asylum-seekers, fleeing deplorable conditions at home, Republicans see them as regular migrants trying to game the system.  The current crisis is an opportunity for people in the US to own up to the country’s history of exploiting Haiti and rectify the injustice.

Haiti’s immigration officials have asked the US for a “humanitarian moratorium” because they cannot provide adequate security or food for the returnees.  America broke Haiti, America must now fix Haiti, or leave Haitians to build their country, and stop meddling.

(Trinidad-born Carlton Joseph who lives in Washington DC, is a close observer of political developments in  the United States.)