Letters & Opinion

Immigration will never end, but a fresh start to how it’s approached is absolutely necessary

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Chronicles Of A Chronic Caribbean Chronicler By Earl Bousquet

Some of the things we saw and heard happening to the estimated 15,000 Haitians who arrived in the US through or gathered in a small Texas town on the US border were horrible, but the entire episode was (and still is) yet another reminder of the treatment and experiences of Haiti and Haitians since slaves on the island rebelled in 1804, abolished slavery and established the world’s first Black Republic.

The approximately 12,000 Haitians camped under a Texas town bridge wasn’t the first or largest outflow of Haitian migrants fleeing Fire and Brimstone at home and seeking Milk and Honey in lily-white greener pastures abroad.

Millions are in the large Haitian Diaspora covering the entire world – Africa, Americas and Europe, in particular, as well as in every French ‘Overseas Territory’ in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific.

While all are not refugees in the classic sense, most Haitians have sought refuge abroad for reasons having more to do with politics and economics, as well as the country’s reputation for fatal and deadly earthquakes and other natural disasters, in addition to the Cholera epidemic introduced by UN peacekeeping soldiers accused of much more than just introducing a disease that took hundreds of lives – and its unfair association with AIDS.

The United Nations never took full responsibility for the cholera outbreak and the lives it took, hiding faceless behind diplomatic immunity from prosecution to avoid paying-out sums it would normally have been demanding from countries or entities causing anything near such a human tragedy.

Haiti’s persistent poverty is rooted in having to pay France 90 million Gold Franc (over US $21 billion today) in 1938, as Reparations for its Independence, which took over a century to pay, ending only in 1947.

So many Haitians head to the USA today, mainly because of the opportunities they will work out, no matter the cost or sacrifice, able to adapt and make ends meet well-enough to send some valuable ‘caca dent’ (pennies) back home to relatives depending on every cent.

Haitians have been painted so badly that not many of her fans across the Caribbean know that Naomi Osaka’s father is Haitian; or that it’s one of two nations on one island.

The USA has from the very beginning after the end of the revolution always provided the troops and arms to repress rebellion and protect the finances of American, French and Haitian aristocrats exploiting people and resources.

International agencies (including the UN) also stand accused there of everything from organized prostitution to sex with under-aged children.

Haitians migrate in such great numbers today that most of the island’s neighbors stand accused of trying to limit their entry or incarcerate and subject those who enter to inhuman, irregular or illegal detention.

The numbers can simply overwhelm, as Guyana learned the hard way with waves of Haitians, Cubans and Venezuelans involved in organized mass exodus to the Land of El Dorado, forcing the government of the CARICOM’s largest and most under-populated nation to take protective measures to protect Guyana and Guyanese against the people’s trafficking mechanisms behind the organized arrivals in numbers the overwhelmed police force can’t trace fast enough.

There are times when the natural historical affinity with Haiti and Haitians can lead to insensitive Caribbean responses to their plight that completely ignore and erase the arguments, reasonings and explanations offered by national authorities.

There’s also the need to avoid the tendency to see migrant Haitian labour as not worth embracing but fully worth exploiting, but take the current situation where migrant labour is in great demand in the UK for an equal number of able Haitians and other migrants seeking any job anywhere, just to get away from whatever is causing them to flee their homes and families.

With all the Haitians in Texas fearing being returned home by legal force and those deported pledging to return as soon as they get a first chance, Britain – at the very same time — needs 15,000 lorry drivers and the UK Government is ready to give 5,000 visas, but only up to December (to ensure at least Christmas trees, hams and turkeys get from pig and poultry farms to UK supermarkets and tables).

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and unions representing lorry drivers in the UK are pressing Boris Johnson to give more visas for longer periods and opt for more long-term solutions, including starting to train younger drivers as older ones retire.

But the problem is that lorry drivers’ wages just aren’t enough to attract tech-minded young people chasing innovations that can lead to venture capital enterprises – and not only in the UK but across Europe, which is why Britain isn’t about to attract drivers from neighboring states.

Now, here we have yet another indication of just how much the world order continues to be screwed against Haitian and African refugees, in particular (Remember President Trump’s ban on seven ‘Muslim’ nations mainly in Africa?)

There are also currently tens of thousands of migrants from near and far (including Africans and Asians, Iraqis and Syrians) risking their lives in near-freezing conditions in Europe’s winter wonderlands, also (like the Haitians in Texas) to get any job that’ll keep them going while they apply for the various benefits that come with legal recognition of refugees.

At no point did I hear those defending the Haitians in the USA and UK make a case for finding or creating a way to welcome and absorb them into jobs that will not be seen as replacing Americans but sharing the wonders of a Land of Opportunity built by immigrants, or in the UK case, being offered and taking available jobs for humanitarian reasons that British workers already don’t want.

I would have thought that in these new times when COVID has made unemployment more a life-and-death issue than ever, the likes of the international labor organizations and crisis groups would think outside the European or American boxes to search for and find ways to encourage nations to absorb immigrants by allowing them into the workforce, even creating jobs for them in areas that better-off nationals in those growing middle-class societies either frown on or simply aren’t interested in.

But the emphasis cannot only be on providing minimum wage jobs for immigrant families because, just as there were scientists and engineers, military leaders and architects, etc. among the millions of enslaved Africans scattered across the Caribbean and the Americas, there are also among today’s immigrants journalists and IT technicians, engineers and scientists, men, women and children with skills and ambitions as high as anyone in the countries they seek to adopt and be adopted by, risking their lives for opportunities to put those skills to work anywhere else.

Yet, with all the deserving and necessary emphasis on the human rights aspects and applying external pressure on nations seeming unwilling to open floodgates, there’s not enough focus on the main reason behind it all: sophisticated people-smuggling rings and gangs that extract millions from fleeing refugees and actually have many believe they will or should be welcomed, once they land – once their feet touch the perceived heavenly shores.

The thousands who arrived in Texas at the same points and times didn’t just parachute from planes, some having left Haiti since 2010 after the massive earthquake, spending a decade paying their way – much by foot – through Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Peru and Panama before finally landing on US soil by merely crossing a river at its shallowest point, most also promised the Biden administration would relax border entry rules, particularly for women and children, to roll-back Donald Trump’s hostile border policy.

Instead, they are being inserted by people smugglers, modern facilitators of Modern Slavery, whose very means of ‘assisting’ them to gain entry to the UK or USA actually reduce them to lesser beings than the citizens they want to join.

Immigration is a very tricky business for Caribbean people, as the ‘Empire Windrush’ experience continue to teach thousands in Britain, not even considering some of the experiences of daily existence in societies that successfully bred and survived thanks to institutional racism over centuries.

It will never end, even with the world designated a Global Village, but the way it continues to be handled will not in any way result in the levels of dissuasion expected to result from the intolerant policies being applied in Europe and North America.

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