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CHOCO
Nov 15th, 2002, 07:26 AM
U.S. policy welcomes Cubans while rebuffing Haitians

SABRA AYRES, Associated Press Writer Thursday, November 14, 2002
(11-14) 22:27 PST MIAMI (AP) --

Eight Cubans land in Key West aboard a crop-duster and are allowed to remain in the United States. More than 200 Haitians come ashore aboard a rickety ship near downtown Miami and are all but certain to be sent back to their desperately poor homeland.

The two groups' very different fates dramatize what some Haitian-Americans say is a cruel and racist double standard in U.S. immigration policy, shaped largely by the Cold War.

"If you come here from a communist country, it's OK. If you come from a white country, it's OK. If you come here from a black country, noncommunist, it's not OK," said Jacques Despinosse, a North Miami city councilman who represents the city's growing Haitian-American community.

For more than 40 years, Cuban refugees have routinely been given asylum in the United States. Under a "wet-foot, dry-foot" policy adopted by the Immigration and Naturalization Service in the 1990s, Cubans who reach U.S. soil are automatically allowed to stay; those caught at sea are sent home.

The government's explanation is that the Cubans are fleeing Fidel Castro's communist government and are assumed to face political persecution if they are returned.

Haitians, who represent the latest large wave of immigrants arriving in South Florida, are usually deported, often after being detained by the INS until their asylum cases are heard. The government says most of the Haitians are economic, not political, refugees and not entitled to asylum.

The different policies were thrown into sharp relief by the arrival of the Cuban family in Key West on Monday and the televised dash for freedom by more than 200 Haitians on Oct. 29.

Rep. Carrie Meek, a black Democrat from Miami, confronted Gov. Jeb Bush during a campaign stop last month, urging him to contact his brother President Bush and get him to free the Haitians.

"All you have to do is call -- the wet-foot, dry-foot policy would take effect," she said. "You can do it."

Meek and other community leaders have said they will hold a protest march on Washington in February.

The differing policies on Cuba and Haiti might reflect a difference in political influence.

South Florida's Cuban-American community has grown into a powerful economic and political force since the first wave of refugees began arriving more than 40 years ago. Miami-Dade County has an estimated 650,000 Cubans.

The state has elected three Cuban-Americans to Congress, all Miami Republicans: Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Lincoln Diaz-Balart, and Diaz-Balart's brother Mario. The mayors of Miami-Dade County and the city of Miami are Cuban-Americans, as are a majority of the county and city commissions.

The Haitian-Americans' political influence has also been growing, spreading from Miami's Little Haiti into North Miami, but they do not have the clout of the Cubans. The 2000 Census put South Florida's Haitian community at 150,000, though advocacy groups said the number is closer to 450,000.

In 2000, North Miami's Philip Brutus became the first Haitian-American elected to the state Legislature. North Miami's mayor and vice mayor are of Haitian descent. In 1999, the village of El Portal, just north of Miami, became the first U.S. community to have a Haitian majority on its governing body.

An analysis of Justice Department statistics on asylum applications handled by immigration courts in 2000-01 shows the courts denied 88 percent of the asylum applications submitted by Haitians.

Haitian activists said they are not asking that the wet-foot, dry-foot policy be taken away from the Cubans. Rather, they want the policy extended to Haitians trying to escape the poverty and violence of Haiti.

"It isn't a question of Cubans versus Haitians," said Dina Paul Parks of the National Coalition for Haitian Rights. "It's a question of Haitians versus everyone else arriving in Miami. It's about the INS choosing folks based on nationality."

DeniseM
Nov 15th, 2002, 07:39 AM
Of course Haitians are economic refugees. But we (and the US government) know how extreme the situation is in Haiti. It is widely considered the most desperate situation in the entire world.

I can't help but think the extreme poverty, hunger, and suffering there, is as great as if not greater than what many political refugees face.

You would think, under the circumstances the only compassionate and rational thing would be to make an exception to let the Haitians stay in the U.S. as refugees.

CHOCO
Nov 15th, 2002, 07:44 AM
Hello DeniseM - :) The only problem with that is if you let the Haitians in, then the government will have to allow in other peoples from very poor countries where the citizendry live in poverty.

I do hope there is a solution in terms of an immigration policy and improve living conditions from which these people come.

DeniseM
Nov 15th, 2002, 07:54 AM
CHOCO, well, I don't see that as a problem. I'm not at all sure what is wrong with people wanting to better themselves economically. Many people in Canada, as in the U.S., have ancestors who came as immigrants, came here for exactly that reason. And though it often isn't easy to better themselves economically once they get here, many, many have in fact done so. So that, rather than being a burden on the country, they contribute to the country.

But by all accounts, Haiti could be considered a special case, given that it is widely recognized as the worst case, as in a class all by itself.

CHOCO
Nov 15th, 2002, 11:58 AM
If the government allows in the Haitians, then what about the poor Mexicans and others from Latin American who are just as bad off as the Haitians?


This has nothing to do with not allowing legal emmigrants into the country but about illegal immigrants.

MartianJoeyWinson
Nov 15th, 2002, 01:38 PM
I've recently shot loads of Haitians from a helicopter with an assault rifle while they were standing on top of the roofs of delapidated mansions shooting back at me, and then I had to shoot my way through them to get the money they stole.

Oh... sorry that's a game. (it's not real Joey... it's NOT real)

DeniseM
Nov 15th, 2002, 02:19 PM
Uh, CHOCO, there's certainly no question about letting emmigrants into the country. Emmigrants are the ones leaving the country.

Again, since obviously I wasn't clear, why not let the poor Mexicans and others in too? Such immigrants have been good for both Canada and the U.S. In order to better themselves economically, they work very hard, and make a big contribution to the overall economy.

It remains, though, that Haitians could be granted special status. It is widely acknowledged that they are far, far, worse off than any other people in the world. They are far, far worse off than Mexicans or Latin Americans. The Mexicans or Latin Americans just aren't as poor or as suffering. The severe plight of Haitians has been documented again and again by organizations in the international community. Haitians are in a degree of poverty and suffering all by themselves. Special status for them would be easy to justify.

I hope I've been a bit clearer.

CHOCO
Nov 15th, 2002, 03:48 PM
Again, imo, the answer is NOT to let into the country illegal immigrants, no matter WHO they are. That just isn't practical, period. The only reason that the Cuban policy exist is because it's a relic from the Cold War period against communism. I'm totally against this policy.

It's not a matter of immigrants not being good for the country because the US allows in tens of thousands of legal immigrants every year, MORE THAN ANY COUNTRY IN THE WORLD, but contol of its borders.

Again, the key to alleviating the poverty in these countries is to stimulate the economies so people wouldn't have a reason to risk their lives to go to the US, Canada or any other country