Recent reports from the U.S. border regarding the rejection of our Haitian brothers and sisters seeking refuge from disaster in their own country brought pangs of anger and regret.
Thousands of Haitians thought the United States would be a safe haven. There is little doubt that many of them spent their last dollar to come to our nation -- a nation where many of them had/have relatives who would have been glad to host them until they could get on their feet.
Unfortunately, upon their arrival they found the professed compassion and humanity of the American people to be an empty promise. For them, the absolute rejection of the Donald Trump years was replayed by the actions of this new administration.
Most of us have heard the words “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free; the wretched refuse of your teeming shore, send these, the tempest tossed to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
Little did we know in our youth that these words would come to echo the meaning of those posted above water fountains and other areas of public accommodation – “For Whites Only!”
The historic duplicity in this treatment is reflected in the difference in the reception received by Cuban immigrants versus that received by Haitians.
Local Florida observers will verify this with personal observations of Cubans being granted expedited paths to citizenship while Haitians are routinely interdicted on open waters (Gulf of Mexico) and forced to return home.
The images of Haitians being rounded-up and whipped like cattle at the Rio Grande by border control agents brought anguish and anger from those whose forebearers suffered the same brutalities under the enslavement system.
That act was another clear reminder that the goal in the treatment of people of color, especially Blacks, is not law enforcement, but control. It was not border control, it was “let’s beat their Black behinds out of here.”
Government apologies rang hollow. We, Black Americans, were more shocked by the Secretary of Homeland Security before the cameras forcefully stating those who were fortunate enough to make it to our borders would be sent back to Haiti.
This decision seemed premature in the face of the fact that so many Haitians have relatives and friends who would be willing to sponsor them.
Yes, the White House criticized the use of horses to “round up human beings, but, at this writing, people are still being denied a safe haven or an opportunity to present their case for remaining in the United States.
Capable of doing better
They are still being returned to Haiti. The Secretary of HHS could do no better than to claim the measure was necessary because of COVID-19. Whatever happened to providing those upon arrival the vaccine many of us had been told it would be safe for all of us?
Couldn’t our government have mandated vaccinations to people as they arrived on our shores?
The questions must be asked. Who, after watching countless videos of environmental conditions in Haiti, will condemn any other human being for desiring the improved living conditions found in the U.S?
Who among us would not trade the average daily wage in Haiti of under $2 for a minimum wage job of $7.25 per hour in the U.S? Would any among us spare any effort to find a better quality of life or opportunity for our children?
Yet, fully 50% of the U.S. media either implies or directly expresses disdain for the plight of Haitian refugees and characterizes them as an unwelcomed scourge. America is capable of doing better to help struggling Haitians. Why aren’t we?
Dr. Faye Williams is national chair of the National Congress of Black Women, Inc. Contact her via www.nationalcongressbw.org.