Posted on Sun, May. 11, 2003
A homeland-security charade
If Attorney General John Ashcroft honestly believes that Haitian migrants pose a potential terrorist threat to the United States, he's loonier than his harshest critics have suggested.
The idea of Islamic militants trying to infiltrate a boatload of Creole-speaking refugees is so ludicrous that even Ashcroft knows better.
Despite what he says, terrorism had nothing to do with his recent decision to block the release of Haitian detainees, some of whom were victims of political violence back home.
The Haitian boat people have been targeted because they're poor and black, and the Bush administration doesn't want them coming here.
Using homeland security as a phony excuse, the government has for 18 months pursued a campaign of discouragement and detention aimed at Haitian immigrants. Ashcr
oft's blanket edict reinforces a policy that is not only racist, but bluntly contemptuous of U.S. immigration procedures.
Many of the 216 Haitians who leapt off that that rickety boat in Biscayne Bay six months ago are still in custody. Among the most well-known is David Joseph, who was 17 at the time he waded ashore. Under the law, he should have been released as a minor.
David's father was brutally stomped by political thugs in Haiti, and David himself bears scars from a burning that he says was carried out by the same sadistic goons.
A federal immigration judge ordered David freed on bond. The government appealed, but a higher court ruled that the teenager posed no threat whatsoever and should be released.
Enter Ashcroft, invoking his broadened powers as the nation's top cop. He ordered that David and other Haitian detainees stay locked up without bond. Among those are numerous children, some of them toddlers, who have been confined for months under armed guard in Miami-area
hotel rooms. They aren't allowed to step out the door, much less play outside.
How incredible that our tax dollars are paying for armed officers to hold children as prisoners. Makes you proud, doesn't it?
In custody at the Krome Detention Center are Haitians who were granted asylum by immigration judges, who said they deserved it. They remain incarcerated because the government is fighting to overturn the court decisions.
No other administration has gone to such lengths to beat down a particular group of immigrants, and no other group is more desperate or vulnerable than the Haitians.
In defending the crackdown, the attorney general said that increased refugee arrivals from Haiti would ''injure national security'' by diverting Coast Guard resources. He also said that Palestinians and Pakistanis have tried to enter the United States illegally through Haiti.
Interestingly, Ashcroft's attentiveness to our borders is somewhat selective.
No scene better illustrates
the charade of ''homeland security'' than the one that unfolded last Wednesday in the waters off Key Largo. Three Cuban rafters were allowed to swim ashore while the Coast Guard tossed life preservers and watched.
If the swimmers had been Haitians, they would have been dragged out of the water like tuna and shipped straight home.
Migrants from Haiti are turned away or locked up, while migrants from Cuba -- a nation whose government is openly sympathetic to anti-American causes -- are usually accepted here with minimal screening.
Mass detention would never happen to Cuban migrants because Cuban Americans have a formidable political constituency and lots of allies in Washington. Even Ashcroft is smart enough not to mess around with Cuban immigration policy.
While the Castro regime has sent spies posing as boat people, I've never heard of a single case of espionage implicating Haitian migrants.
As for terrorism, there's no evidence that al Qaeda operatives are secretly r
elocating from Afghanistan to the Caribbean.
And no matter how much plastic surgery Osama bin Laden has, he will never in a million years blend in on the streets of downtown Port-au-Prince.
Yet under the flimsiest of pretenses we are holding Haitians who reach our shores, regardless of their ages, the legitimacy of their persecution claims and, in some cases, the findings of immigration judges.
At this rate, don't be surprised if Ashcroft dispenses altogether with the pesky legalities. Why even bother with asylum hearings if you're going to nullify the courts' rulings?
Sen. Bob Graham is anchoring his presidential campaign on the contention that homeland security under George W. Bush is a sham. The administration's execrable treatment of Haitians gives Graham strong ammunition in a state that the president can't afford to lose.
Does anyone really feel safer from terrorism now that we're locking up Haitian children?
It's complete madness.
As a free nation
we have more to fear from John Ashcroft than from young David Joseph.
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