The power of a picture

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by Jean Hervé Charles

The drama of Haitian migrants under the international bridge camping like refugees after an earthquake did raise some eyebrows. Will Joe Biden order the prompt deportation of some 16.000 migrants or will they be permitted to enter the United States and put in temporary status until their adjudication?

The news came like a hatchet, they will be sent home immediately, and indeed several charters were commandeered from San Antonio to bring the Haitians back. The airports in Cape Haitian and Port au Prince have  indeed received 1400 migrants including children that were deported back in their home country after a journey that include two to three years in Chile or Brazil.

 The deportation came to a sudden halt after the news shows the picture of a Haitian being pursued by a border agent on a horse with a whip or a rein on hand. That picture went viral immediately. All the news outlets including the social media ran the story. It was enough for Vice President Kamela Harris to characterize the picture as an affront to the character of America. Daniel Foote, the American Emissary to Haiti, resigned; the Congressional Black Caucus shows its outrage. The picture was the replica of the slavery era when Blacks were chased around by the colonial masters.

With that picture the deportation came to a sudden halt. Haitians migrants will be like the Latin America ones, free in the United States until their day in court, which can take several years.

The drama of Haitian migration started in 1956, the day President Paul E Magloire quit power some sixty-five years ago. With the arrival of Francois Duvalier into office, and his installing a reign of terror in the country with the imposition of the dreadful ton ton macoutes, the Haitian population began to flee the country. It was at the beginning the educated ones, the doctors, the lawyers and the teachers. The United Nations was of the party since it was recruiting Haitians of high excellence to go to Congo to do nation building. The work of the Haitians was too effective to last. The project came to a sudden halt and those Haitians left for Quebec, Canada and the United States. That was the epoch when the Haitians were the darling of the host country. Imagine those well educated blacks, who speak French, we can use them to polish the black population.

But Duvalier père was replaced with Duvalier fils in the 1970’s with the long hand of the Americans; it was the turn of the rural world to organize several flotillas of boats and arrive in Florida demanding their place in heaven. Some of them had to take a purgatory detour in Guantanamo but finally they were admitted into the United States where they now formed the solid middle class Haitian Diaspora in Florida.

In the meantime, the Haitian drama continues at home, illiberal governments entrenched into corruption, drug trafficking and plain theft of state assets continue to occupy the center of power in Haiti. Worst they are being ushered in by the same foreign powers that claimed they want good governance.

Not knowing which saint to evoke the Haitian people left the country by the thousands. It was at the beginning the Republic Dominican, followed by Bahamas, Florida and recently Brazil and Chili.

But the Eldorado is after all the United States. A first flotilla of 15.000 marches on to El Grande in the past few weeks, there are rumors another flotilla of 20.000 is massing up in Columbia ready to assault Texas in the next weeks to come. The Republican government under Donald Trump has been able to stop the invasion by requesting the immigrants to stay in Mexico until their demand for asylum is accepted or rejected.  The Democratic government has run on the assumption such policy was cruel and inhuman. The floodgate was open for all, those who believe the United States was heaven on earth.

Where do we go from there? The fight for the dispute of the soul of America is being played in the open right now. On one side there is Fox News and the Right that says the gate must be closed and the migrants must wait for their turn; on the other side there is the Left that calls for compassion and tolerance. But playing the political game á la Kissinger there is the Democratic Party that counts on the migrants to become Democrat in the next ten years. Although you never know the Haitians have a natural penchant for the Republican values: no abortion, work hard for a living, good school for their children, practicing Catholic. They can be the citizens that make or rake the politicians.

As for Haiti and the rest of Latin America the pattern of immigration to the North is not sustainable. After 65 years, the United States must ease its long hand with the successive odious governments that inflict pain on the people. After two earthquakes, the assassination of the President, numerous hurricanes, Haiti is too fragile not to have a decent government that promote the shared sense of belonging, a restored environment with sane institutions and adequate infrastructure everywhere with an affirmative action for the neglected, the women, the rural world and the ghettos. That Haiti will revisit  its tradition of service in the world and it will teaches its youth to profess scholarship, resilience and creativity to lead that country as a lighthouse for the globe.   

It is rumored that the Foreign Affairs Minister has ordered the Ambassador in Washington to deliver a check of 3 million dollars to Martine Moise to start her campaign to become the next President of Haiti. With a country that goes back to its state of squalor it is not surprising that Afghanistan and Haiti are two swamis’ sisters that compete to remain in the dark for eternity!     

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