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Addressing Haiti – yet again

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By Joe Guzzardi
Syndicated columnist

Responding to a U.S. worldwide threat assessment which found that Haitian “gangs will be more likely to violently resist a foreign national force deployment to Haiti because they perceive it to be a shared threat to their control and operations,” Secretary of State Anthony Blinken announced that the U.S. would contribute $300 million to a Kenyan-led security mission. 

In a statement that comforted no one, Blinken continued with empty words. The U.S. supports the plan, he said, “to create a broad-based, inclusive, independent presidential college” that would “take concrete steps to meet the immediate needs of Haitian people,” enable the security support mission’s “swift deployment”, and ultimately “create the security conditions that are necessary to hold free and fair elections, to allow humanitarian assistance to get to the people who need it, and to help put Haiti back on a path to economic opportunity and growth.” Specific details omitted.

Since Haiti’s 2010 earthquake, the federal government has sent $5.1 billion for post-disaster relief and reconstruction. During the decade between 2010-20, the U.S. also provided $312 million to strengthen law enforcement and assist the Haitian National Police in maintaining peace and stability and to respond effectively to civil unrest. Talk about a lousy return on investment.

Since President Jovenel Moïse’s 2021 assassination, gangs have taken control of roughly 80 percent of the capitol and displaced more than 300,000 people with a campaign of kidnappings for ransom, rapes and killings. The worsening violence has deepened the catastrophe. Half of Haiti’s 11.8 million persons suffer from food insufficiency. Conditions deteriorated further this month when the gangs, which usually battle each other, joined together to attack Haiti’s international airport, its principal seaport and several police stations. Armed groups stormed Haiti’s largest prison and orchestrated a jailbreak for nearly 4,000 murderers, kidnappers and rapists.

Haiti is, literally, a hell hole. Understandably, those who can get out will do so at their first opportunity. Since Florida has the U.S.’s largest Haitian population, about 488,000, the Sunshine State is their preferred destination. Governor Ron DeSantis advised that Florida Fish and Wildlife had interdicted a vessel headed for the Florida coast that carried 25 Haitian nationals, as well as firearms, drugs and night vision gear, inarguably an ominous sign. Not every fleeing Haitian is ill-intended but bad outcomes from mass migration are inevitable. Example: In the Boston suburb of Rockland, a 26-year-old Haitian, Cory Alvarez, is being held on charges of aggravated child rape of a 15-year-old handicapped girl. The alleged crime took place at a hotel converted to shelter for caught-and-released illegal immigrants. Dozens of other criminal violations have occurred that also involve so-called asylum seekers victimizing U.S. citizens.

The U.S. has a long, unsuccessful history of Haitian intervention. Three thousand U.S. Marine Corps troops occupied Haiti from 1915 to 1934 to restore financial and political stability during an era when U.S. bank interests were teetering. Two decades later, Washington initially supported the brutal, murderous François “Papa Doc” Duvalier dictatorship. After “Papa Doc’s” death, the U.S. acknowledged his son, “Baby Doc.” The federal government defended its pro-Duvalier position because both father and son were vigorous anti-Communists. Then, about 20,000 U.S. forces invaded Haiti in 1994 to restore ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and returned in 2004 to reestablish order after Aristide fled to exile. In 2011, the U.S. helped Michel Martelly win the Haitian presidency. Martelly is better known as pop singer “Sweet Micky.” Last year, the U.N. accused Martelly of using gangs to expand his influence to advance his political agenda which contributed to ongoing instability, the impacts of which are still being felt today.

Various White House administrations have acted aggressively on Haiti’s behalf. In 1998, the Clinton administration passed the Haitian Refugee Immigrant Fairness Act Amnesty that granted permanent residency status to approximately 125,000 Haitians, their wives and children on the condition that he had been physically present in the U.S. for at least one year and is physically present in the United States on the date the application for such adjustment is filed. President Biden included Haitians in his CHNV parole program which allows up to 30,000 inadmissible nationals from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua and Venezuela to enter per month on two-year parole periods that include work authorization.  Under a provision of the Refugee Assistance Education Act of 1980, every Cuban and Haitian national who has been admitted under the CHNV program is eligible to immediately apply for Medicaid, SNAP, and TANF as well as every national of either country who was paroled after making an appointment at a port of entry using the CBP One app. Also included for extensive affirmative benefits are every Cuban and Haitian national apprehended at the Southwest border and either paroled or placed into removal proceedings. Alvarez, the Haitian accused child rapist, entered under CHNV.

Moreover, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas announced on December 5, 2022, that he will extend and re-designate Haiti for Temporary Protected Status (TPS). TPS protects aliens from removal if they entered the United States prior to a country’s TPS designation and provides beneficiaries work authorization. TPS beneficiaries rarely return home; the label “temporary” translates to “permanent.”

Although the predicted Haitian surge to the U.S. has not happened yet, the U.S. should assure that it does not. That means that in addition to measures like those that DeSantis has taken to shore up enforcement to keep Haitian aliens out, the federal government should consider sending troops to Haiti to restore order and minimize its nationals efforts to flee. The U.S. cannot become the last port in every global storm. The likelihood of Biden sending a small peace-keeping contingent to Haiti is near zero. The president has demonstrated repeatedly that he doesn’t care about the chaos and violence that unfettered illegal immigration creates.

Joe Guzzardi is an Institute for Sound Public Policy analyst who has been writing about immigration for more than 30 years.

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