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Will the U.S. accept Haitian earthquake refugees?

Jonathan Capehart argues that the catastrophe that's befallen Haiti should lead to a reexamination of the United States's "wet foot, dry foot" double standard governing refugees from Haiti and Cuba.

By Jonathan Capehart  | January 13, 2010; 3:19 PM ET
Categories:  Capehart  | Tags:  Jonathan Capehart  
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The wet foot, dry foot policy is a relic of the Cold War era, when the United States' refugee policy was based on the political leanings of their home government. Refugees from communist countries were admitted with almost no questions asked, while refugees from right wing governments considered "friendly" to the US were routinely denied. It is high time this policy was abolished, and indeed it is going to have to be reviewed before relations with Cuba are normalized, if that is something that President Obama still is working toward. If the United States no longer views the Cuban government as an enemy, then we will have to stop accepting refugees from that government with no questions asked.

Posted by: smclady10 | January 13, 2010 4:24 PM | Report abuse

You're right - the dry foot policy should be ended immediately.

As appalling as the Haitian situation appears to be, there's no reason Haitians as well as Cubans should receive preference over refugees from Darfur, North Korea, and other horrific corners of the world. And we cannot possibly apply a dry foot policy across the board, so that anyone who somehow staggers onto American soil (a test unconscionably biased in favor of Caribbean and Mexican refugees, anyway) gets to stay.

Just because a terrible tragedy is unfolding just a few hundred miles from our borders is no reason to advocate stupid and unfair policy.

Posted by: Itzajob | January 13, 2010 4:28 PM | Report abuse

I bet my wife we wouldn't hear about mass infusions of Haitians until at least tomorrow. I see that I have lost.

Itzajob has correctly summarized the situation.

I'm quite sure we'll be setting up the trailers and tent cities that will be needed. But this is not the reason to admit even more peasant class, little or no skill people to a country with an unemployment/underemployment rate of nearly 20%, and mounting debt that will limit our economic growth for many, many years.

Posted by: Curmudgeon10 | January 13, 2010 4:32 PM | Report abuse

Much as I might wish it otherwise, the answer to the question about whether the US will accept any significant number of Haitian earthquake refugees

Posted by: wgmadden | January 13, 2010 5:25 PM | Report abuse

It is about time that everyone in the world, from Mexicans to Germans, be told that we have enough people in the US. Immigration policy should be based on what is best for our own country. In the next century, countless numbers of people from many failed societies are going to hope to migrate, unless we have a realistic notion of our own carrying capacity.

Aid for Haiti, yes. Movement to the US, no.

Posted by: rusty3 | January 13, 2010 6:55 PM | Report abuse

With 20% effective unemployment in the US and the prospect of another 5 million manufacturing and services jobs outsourced to India and China????

No way!

Sorry for the millions of Haitians who want to live here, are willing to work hard at any job Americans have for less wages...but we cannot be the dumping ground of all overbred 4th worlders in desperate circumstances. There are some 20 countries that would love to dump some 400 million surplus, unwanted desperate people on the USA besides Haiti.

Not to mention the free schooling and healthcare the 4th Worlders would get, then the "adder" on to each person's health insurance for permanent refugees we are stuck with getting "free hospital or Medicaid care" once their 10 year refugee free med care runs out.
A guy I hire for extra construction work just came in and showed me his new health insurance bill. It went up 51.48% as he turned 55 and also got hit with a massive rate increase. His monthly, with no dental, went from 573 to 868 dollars. He is in panic, shock...and I can't help him out with higher wages, which he asked for. The money isn't there!

I'll be damned if we can't fix the healthcare mess middle class US citizens are in before we start giving it free to desperate 4th Worlders. I don't have the money for it, my contract help doesn't have the money for it, and the near-bankrupt USA sure doesn't.

Sorry for the Haitians and their overbred corrupt hellhole and their annual hurricanes or other disasters - but I fail to see why that entitles them to a free ride in bad times here and eventual US citizenship.

Posted by: ChrisFord1 | January 13, 2010 6:55 PM | Report abuse

By all means give the Haitians the aid they need, but taking in more poor immigrants does not solve that country's problems. Admitting more poor uneducated refugees would exacerbate America's existing problems.

But you know that, Capehart. So why would make such a suggestion?

Posted by: darling_ailie | January 13, 2010 7:04 PM | Report abuse

This is the wrong time to make this suggestion. But since you did...

First, there are already a substantial number of Haitans living in the United States. The last I heard a number of years ago it was about one in ten, however that number is compiled.

Second, we could have solved Haiti's problems a number of years ago by opening our doors to them. Four million Haitians entering the United States would have been manageable. But that was not the problem. When the SE Asians got in after VietNam, the illegal aliens screamed "unfair" because they had been here "contributing." That was a partial argument for the amnesty in 1986. Allowing mass entry to Haitians now would simply open Pandora's box. That would put an end to the United States real fast.

Posted by: hipshot | January 13, 2010 7:16 PM | Report abuse

Good question as Bush waited to let what he called American Refugees die for 5 days. The GOP reports Obama didn't act fast enough in this Haiti Earthquake well not as fast as Bush did for the Katrina Victims. Even Religious GOP Leader Pat Roberts said it was an act of God for the sins of the people of Haiti. Yes nothing Obama does is right for Republicans. Obama can only follow the real teachings of God while Bush/Republicans use God's Name while following Satan's orders.

Posted by: qqbDEyZW | January 13, 2010 7:41 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Capehart, I didn't see you hoping on a plane to Haiti flying to help your fellow brethren. You are disgusting. All you ppl want to sit down on your @ss and want the white ppl to bail you out. Haiti is poor for a reason. The people over there are violent, criminal thugs, and letting them in will destroy America as we know it. They were rioting in JFK only two weeks ago and the airlines had to call in the cops. I say send them to Africa, and you can catch the ride too. And this is coming from a black man.

Posted by: playa_brotha | January 13, 2010 8:38 PM | Report abuse

The U.S. should not accept even one Haitian refugee. We have far too many ignorant, criminal, and poverty stricken immigrants, legal and illegal, as it is, and no end in sight. Has anyone noticed that it already requires the U.N. just to keep some semblance of order among these people? Or that shooting has been heard in the devastated city? Why on earth should we import more criminals and people who breed scores of children they cannot support? Medical aid should include birth control pills.

Posted by: stonecarver | January 14, 2010 1:40 AM | Report abuse

It is terrible in hati, it is terrible in many many countries. The usa can not longer be the dumping ground for refugees.
It is obsured to let one group in and not the other. we are a desperate country right now. Lets see how many warm friendly countrys from latin america, cuba etc, take the hatians, lets see how many of those countrys will give them free housing , healthcare etc. Uncle sap cant be the #1 dumping grounds. Why do I see obama taking politicaly adavantage in this?

Posted by: davidtrottier2002 | January 14, 2010 10:56 AM | Report abuse

Mr. Capehart, I am greatly amused by this piece. Your sense of timing is incredible.

In the next two to four days Haitians are going to require massive efforts from the rest of humanity just to have a chance to survive. Water, sanitation, rescue teams, medical support, heavy moving equipment, a way to identify and deal with the dead, the list goes on.

Those few Haitians who still have functional watercraft and choose to leave are likely to get intercepted by non-Haitian military who are sending watercraft of their own to the region as part of the relief effort.

In the short run, no one's going anywhere and your focusing on the few who might try in the midst of other priorities and issues is baffling.

Posted by: MsJS | January 14, 2010 11:08 AM | Report abuse

I think it is a timely question actually, and some of these comments re-inforce this. You can certainly question whether we have the resources (in the middle of a recession) to give refuge to neighbors who are suffering from a natural disaster.

I would question the ancillary comments here that argue that a public discussion is held so that prejudiced feelings cannot hide in the dark beneath protestations to the contrary . Examples in this string abound:

"ignorant, criminal, and poverty stricken", "overbred 4th worlders", "peasant class", "...among these people".

These are uncharitable comments that are informed by selfishness and fear.

If we can't find the room in our hearts and in our country to admit refuges from a neighboring country, then I would expect that these guardians of the US would re-double their efforts to get substantial funds into Haiti to re-build the country in place, so that Haitians have an alternative to emigration, legal or otherwise. Otherwise, all of these cautionary comments are just rationalizing a bugger-thy-neighbor mindset.

Posted by: chuck2 | January 14, 2010 1:41 PM | Report abuse

Heaven forbid that our country open its doors and arms to the Haitians. A country that is not that far from our own borders. We certainly wouldn't want to offend the sensibilities of the poor American people who seem to be suffering even more than the Haitians. You know America, the most powerful country in the world, the country EVERYONE would do anything to come to. The diverse country where anyone can achieve anything because of the opportunities available. Oh, sorry. That was before Republicans and George Bush collapsed the economy. That was before Bush started two wars that are taking all of our tax dollar. That was before a country full of poor black people was devastated by a natural disaster that struck them because they made a pack with the devil to free themselves from slavery.

Hm mm wonder how far $10 million dollars would go to keep those Haitians in their country where they belong. Maybe some of those people at the banks in line to receive millions of dollars in bonuses could donate some of their bonus money to keep those people over there....

Posted by: catmomtx | January 14, 2010 9:24 PM | Report abuse

catmomtx...FEEL free to send your personal credit card info to the Haitian government, or to Obama for whatever you want to donate..or to get on a plane and go over and help out all YOU want to.

But keep your emotional guilting crappola in your own pie hole as regards America and what WE SHOULD all do.

Do what you want. But leave me and mine alone.

Posted by: joelevin | January 15, 2010 11:13 AM | Report abuse

How about MEXICO opens its doors to the Haitians....all of their folks come to the USA for wages because they can't make enough money in Mexico, so they come here and send money back. Well, they make more money in MEXICO than $1 per day which is what the Haitians LIVE on.

SO YOUR humanitarian side to the open up your borders and healthcare and generosity to the Haitians...they are close by you too, and are cosidered latin american like much of the and Chavel and Castro get out your checkbooks...these folks don't need MUCH...and the USA is broke taking care of YOUR people on our economy.

Isn't it a WORLD ISSUE...not a USA issue? We sure don't want to get into the NATION BUILDING business on Obama's Watch, do we??

Posted by: joelevin | January 15, 2010 11:18 AM | Report abuse

There are a lot of people who are aware that we need to reduce our population rather than increase our population. And a good look at the environment of the United States tells a sad story that cannot be ignored except at the peril of its citizens.

But the cost of the Haitian and bringing them forward into our society is going to cost a huge amount of money. It is a fact of life that Haiti is now one of the safest earthquake places in the world and it is a good place to live. So no.. there isn't a reason to transport them to the United States and a lot of reasons to let the Haitians determine their future in a Haiti of tomorrow.

And yes: if other countries don't agree with our thoughts here, let them extend citizenship to those folks. It is correct to say that this country should have followed the United Nations lead in this emergency. Instead, we cowboyed the whole thing into a mess. I would also point out that Obama specifically suggested that would be the course taken in the future while he was running for President.

Lets do it right. Lets let the world organizations decide if all of Haiti should be evacuated, or should Haiti should be rebuilt.

Posted by: joelwisch | January 20, 2010 4:47 PM | Report abuse

I am outraged by some of the comments made in this room, but I am not surprised at all because I have been around long enough to know that this country is full of ignorant folks that doesn't care to know the facts.

Haitians right now don't need Americans to give them refuge into the U.S., a process that would take a long time, but help with some of the basic necessities. Most importantly; medical care for those who are seriously wounded, water and food for those living on the street.

Heck, even helping cleaning out some of the major roads that lead to other cities in Haiti could help some of the people to evacuate Port-au-Prince.

Some use harsh words such as; "ignorant, criminal, and poverty stricken".

Ignorant, are those of you who doesn't know that Haiti is where it is now because of countries such; France, Spain, the U.S. They drain the island of all it had to offer.
Criminal, wow where do I start? about children education in the U.S. and I am not talking about schooling, but parenting. The real meaning is rapidly fading away with the law sticking its nose where it doesn't belong. Most Haitians don't have the privilege of free education. What are the U.S. children' excuses?
Few years ago we started hearing about kidnapping in Haiti, but the funny thing is, most of the people in charge are deportees from the U.S. well, they learn from the best.

Poverty Stricken, well when you have no resources left, no help, and government that only look out for their pocket, what do you have left?

As for Pat Roberts, he is going straight to hell. He is a religious leader, not a Christian. Get him a Bible!

Haitian keep their Pride.

Posted by: kindred1973 | January 20, 2010 7:06 PM | Report abuse

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