Haitian and Cuban Refugees
the last two months, smugglers routinely drop Haitians and Cubans off the South
Florida coast. US authorities arrest these presumably "illegal"
immigrants and haul them off to Krome detention center. All the Haitians then
await hearings for deportation. But some of the Cubans, at the same center, will
receive processing to get them parolee status -- the rapid route to a green card
and permanent residence.
Cubans and Haitians fled islands engulfed in poverty and lack of opportunity.
But one can't compare the plight of Haitian to those on the island only 30 miles
to the West. Cubans continue to enjoy free health care, education and state
subsidies for some of their food and other needs. Haitians, living under a
supposedly free-market regime and a "democratic" government remain
desperately poor. Thei "free" system offers them no cushions for hard
US politics demands that the Cubans, fleeing for economic reasons, receive
political heroes' treatment for getting themselves smuggled into the United
States; Haitians should go back where they belong. Both Alfred E. Newman and the
Cigar Store Indian bow to the demands of the right wing anti-Castro lobby in
hopes of acquiring last minute money and votes. The Clinton Administration
acquiesces in the fiction that Cubans are special refugees, fleeing from
communism - as long as they prove clever enough to elude the Coast Guard, which
is supposed to repatriate them, and put a foot on US soil.
wet foot-dry foot wrinkle stems from the 1966 Cuban Adjustment Act, which
encouraged Cubans to risk their lives to defect. If they made it to the US
beach, we would welcome them and offer them preferred treatment. In the Cold War
days, Cubans who wanted to emigrate to the United States had little chance of
doing so legally. Then in the early 90s, as Cuba's economy spiraled downward,
"too many" Cubans came here in rafts. As xenophobia swept the United
States undergoing the effects of recession, Florida officials, fearful of the
redneck reaction, complained to Clinton. So, the United States, which had
committed itself to the destruction of the Castro government, signed the 1995
Migration Accords with Cuba, in order to discourage "undesirable"
Cubans from embarking illegally in rafts.
accord, of course, strengthened the legitimacy of the Castro government. And, it
temporarily stopped the rafters' tsunami. But Clinton didn't have the courage to
confront the anti-Castro lobby and push Congress to overturn the 1966 Act. So,
the crisis had ended, but the problem remained. The State Department would offer
up to 20,000 visas a year to desirable Cubans, those without criminal records or
histories of mental illness; those with good education and affluent families
already living in the United States. However, because the 1966 Cuban Adjustment
Act remained as law, "unqualified" Cubans pay smugglers up to $10
thousand who try to elude the Coast Guard and get their passengers within
swimming distance of a US beach. Needless to say, not all of those whose toes
touch US sand would have qualified for legal visas.
month a group of Cubans stole a crop duster and crashed the plane into the ocean
as soon as they spotted a ship which they assumed would pick them up. And, the
pirates qualified under the dry foot rule although they crashed in the ocean.
Get it? It's election time.
deal that such official approval of air piracy might set a bad Precedent. As
Miami Herald columnist Carl Hiasson suggests, US immigration has in effect
imposed a new rule: the black foot-white foot formula, which has become
superimposed on the wet foot dry foot ploy. Haitians/black, send 'em back.
Cubans white / they're alright. To hell with consistency! Winning elections in
the world's greatest empire has its own logic. There might not be justice or
poetry in such policies, but the next imperial leader will do almost anything to
get a buck or a vote from South Florida.