Fleeing disastrous conditions, Haitian refugees fight US deportation

The 1804 Movement leads hundreds in a march across the Brooklyn Bridge on Jan. 19, 2018. PHOTO: 1804 Movement
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After a devastating earthquake in 2010 killed 316,000 Haitians and displaced more than 1.5 million, the U.S. granted 60,000 of their compatriots Temporary Protected Status. This allows undocumented immigrants confronting natural disasters or wars at home to live and work legally in the U.S. for an unspecified period. Now President Trump says he will revoke Haitians’ status and send them back to the island.

The president justifies this by claiming that Haiti, the poorest country in the Americas, is now able to “safely receive traditional levels of returned citizens.” This is a flat out lie. Haitians today still face unrelenting poverty and repression.

Writing in a 2010 Freedom Socialist article entitled “The future is Haiti’s to build,” Steven Strauss pinpointed the origin of the crisis that followed the 2010 earthquake: “With the U.S. leading the pack, imperialist countries have looted Haiti of rich natural resources, privatized public industries out of existence, attacked labor unions and engorged on profits from near-slave labor. It was precisely this intentional impoverishment and criminal lack of earthquake-safe infrastructure that rendered Haiti so vulnerable to the ravages of the Jan. 12 earthquake in the first place.”

Corruption has also played its part: $9 billion in aid gathered in 2010 never reached Haiti and by 2017, the Red Cross had built only six replacement homes despite having collected nearly half a billion dollars after the 2010 earthquake.

Imperialist crimes against Haiti. Only five weeks after Hurricane Matthew hit Haiti in 2016, killing 1,500 people, President Obama also claimed the country was safe enough to resume deporting undocumented Haitians. He ignored some very distressing facts: over 200,000 homes had been destroyed; tens of thousands were injured and unable to access hospitals; much of the island was without electricity or clean water; and an ongoing cholera epidemic, brought to Haiti by United Nations troops, was still on the rise.

While Obama publicly praised Hurricane Matthew relief efforts, the U.S. State Department under the leadership of Hillary Clinton continued to award lucrative contracts and weapons deals to foreign corporations and governments under the guise of humanitarian aid and job creation. Many of these corporations were major donors to the Clinton Foundation. Meanwhile, Haitians were stuck with a minimum wage of 38 cents per hour.

The State Department also backed sweatshops where workers faced widespread sexual harassment and regular workers currently make $4.77 per day but frequently are not paid.

Since President Trump announced ending the Temporary Status program, many Haitians are turning to Canada for safe haven. But Prime Minister Justin Trudeau echoes the lie that Haiti has recovered and supports the policy of rejecting 90 percent of all Haitian claimants for asylum.

History’s truths. After a 13-year-long revolution, Haiti’s self-freed slaves defeated three colonial armies — from France, England and Spain — and in 1804 founded the Republic of Haiti. It was the first independent nation of Latin America, the first Black republic, and the first nation in the western hemisphere to abolish slavery. Haiti’s existence has always been a rebuke to racist, capitalist governments that have never quit trying to inflict poverty and abuse on Haitians’ titanic accomplishment. Black Marxist C.L.R. James, author of a seminal work on the Haitian revolution, believed their contributions were “of greater historical significance than the American or French revolutions.”

But the price of their victory was high. France forced the new Haitian republic to pay strangling reparations for destroying French-owned plantations. This was followed by U.S. military occupation from 1915 to 1934. Ever since, the U.S. has criminally afflicted Haiti’s economy and elections. Meanwhile, U.N. “peacekeeping” troops have a scandalous record of sexually abusing defenseless and hungry residents.

Today Haiti’s impoverishment is the direct result of U.S. and U.N. military repression and the imposition of high-interest loans by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

Mounting resistance. In late 2017, massive demonstrations rocked several major Haitian cities; protestors decried the U.S.-backed budget and high taxes proposed by President Jovenel Moïse. Women, the majority of Haitian sweatshop workers, continue to be at the forefront of labor protests. In Port au Prince, textile workers have been on strike since May 2017. Haiti’s main university has been closed since August 2017 by student and teacher strikes. In January, enraged at Trump’s racist comments on Haitian and African refugees, Haitians swamped the U.S. embassy in Port-au-Prince and closed it down.

In the U.S., angry street protests sparked the founding of an important new coalition — the 1804 Movement for All Immigrants.

Explains New York Haitian activist Ray Laforest, “The Haitian people were angry at Trump’s racist statement about ‘shithole countries,’ but this coalition fights for going beyond that and the neo-fascist tendencies that his statement and other actions represent. His statement is a symptom of a greater ill which points to the need for a broader fight for all immigrants both in the U.S. and in our native countries.”

The founding declaration of the 1804 Movement minces no words: “If we in the Caribbean, Latin America, Africa, or Asia try to flee our plight, to sell our smarts and labor elsewhere, we are arrested by the U.S. Coast Guard or Border Patrol. In short, we are imprisoned in our homelands. But the U.S. demands complete freedom to buy land, set up businesses, and sell products there. Our sovereign nations are, in fact, modern colonies, neo-colonies. The system that is based here on Wall Street is a giant sucking machine.”

Many other refugees whose Temporary Protected Status is being revoked — whether from El Salvador, Sudan, Nicaragua, Syria, Nepal, Honduras, Yemen, or Somalia — would agree and will undoubtedly take part in a major demonstration called by the 1804 Movement in Washington, D.C. on May 19, 2018.

  •  Stop deportations.
  •  Permanent residency for TPS refugees.
  •  End the UN military occupation.
  •  Open all borders.

For feedback, contact the author at queenofscotts@gmail.com.

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