One and Respe!
It's racism, not terror, keeping Haitians out
David Joseph, and all other Haitians who arrive in the U.S. by sea, are a threat to America's national security.
Don't laugh. That was the argument U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft used as a reason to keep Joseph - a 20-year-old asylum seeker - detained for two years, while his case was processed.
Even though there is not one shred of evidence to support it, Ashcroft said, in all seriousness, that Haiti is a "staging point" for terrorists. And he denied the young man's request to be released.
Yet there is plenty of evidence of the violence, misery and chaos that is Haiti today - especially after a recent tropical storm spawned disastrous flooding that only exacerbated the hunger, illness and death that has long racked the desperately poor island nation.
Which makes it even more outrageous that Joseph was sent back to Haiti on Monday, without having enjoyed a single day of the freedom he risked his life to achieve.
I'll bet no one feels safer because Joseph was deported. I know I don't.
Because, in reality, the decision to deport Joseph has nothing to do with national security. Rather, it was just one of many instances in which such a concern was raised as an excuse to carry out an exclusionary policy toward Haitians.
Wendy Young, director of external relations for the advocacy group Women's Commission for Refugee Women and Children, put it this way:
"While national security is undoubtedly a priority, there is no evidence that Haitians are a threat. David was being held hostage to a senseless Haitian policy that does not advance national security."
That policy is not only senseless, but also cruel and discriminatory. While other people who come to the U.S. fleeing violence and lawlessness are granted protection under some
thing called Temporary Protective Status, Haitians have never been so lucky.
The true purpose of the policy toward Haitians is not to fight terrorism, but to discourage those who want to escape their country's wretched conditions from coming here. The message is clear: You are not welcome.
Why only Haitians, though?
"They are black, poor and their country is close to our shores," Young insisted. "There is a racial element here."
Joseph's case is a powerful example of that unfairness. He was 17 when he arrived in the U.S. in October 2002, after his father was beaten by thugs at the behest of political enemies who also destroyed their home in Cap-Haitien.
Soon after his arrival in Florida, an immigration judge ordered Joseph released on bond to his uncle, a U.S. citizen. The federal government immediately appealed, blocking his release.
In March 2003, the Board of Immigration Appeals affirmed the judge's decision and ordered that Joseph be released on bond. Ashcroft
then certified the case to himself and ruled that the young man was not eligible for bond, on the ground that Haitians who arrive here by sea are a threat to national security.
"David's deportation shows how cold and heartless we have become in dealing with Haitians," Young said. "We are turning our backs on those who need us most, undermining the values upon which this country was built. We urgently need to revise our policies."
Originally published on December 2, 2004
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