We are getting conflicting stories out of the Department of Homeland Security that it may be preparing to entice hundreds of thousands of Haitians to try to illegally enter the U.S. and then grant them some kind of legal status and work permits. Here is what we are hearing . . .
A source from within DHS is hearing of an effort to gather all French and Creole speakers in DHS to move to our Gitmo base in Cuba. This is where Haitian boat people trying to illegally enter the U.S. would be taken after being intercepted on the seas. At Gitmo, according to this DHS source, the boat people would be processed and then allowed to enter the U.S. for some undetermined amount of time with work permits.
Another source says DHS Chief Janet Napolitano was asked about this plan by a journalist and has denied it. I was certainly pleased to see her over the weekend trying to send a message to Haiti that people should not take risks to take a boat to the U.S. and in warning people contemplating it that they would be picked up and taken back to Haiti. But it could be that internally there are fears that a flotilla will emerge anyway and the floaters really won’t be repatriated.
At this point, I am not weighing in on the credibility of any of the information.
But I do want to point out that it would be incredibly cruel to the Haitian people for the Obama Administration to provide any sign whatsoever that Haitians who try to enter the U.S. illegally would be allowed to stay and work.
Even without a devastating earthquake, Haitians for decades have shown a willingness to drop everything and risk their lives on leaky boats to try to get to the U.S. when they thought they might have a chance to settle illegally.
Many of you may remember that thousands of Haitians took to the seas just before Pres. Clinton was first inaugurated because they thought from some of his campaign comments that he would allow them to sneak into the country. Many Haitians drowned in the process. The first act of the Clinton Administration was to intercept the Haitian boats and make it clear that taking to sea was fruitless because the boats would not be allowed to land in Florida and illegal aliens who evaded the Coast Guard would be sent back to Haiti when caught on land.
In short, the first time that Haitians try to illegally enter the U.S. and are allowed to stay legally, we can expect to see a massive flotilla of rickety boats heading here from Haiti, and hundreds or thousands of Haitians will die in the process.
For now, we can hope that if DHS is setting up a processing center at Gitmo, it will be for the purpose of moving Haitians rescued from their boats back to Haiti.
The whole world is committed at this moment to assisting the 8 million Haitians who are in their home country. The Haitians are suffering from a momentous tragedy. Since there is no indication that the vast majority of them will be accepted for resettlement in other countries, it only makes sense to put all resources into rebuilding their own country for their habitation, rather than allowing a small fraction to move to the U.S. and further exacerbate the unemployment and economic distress of our own most vulnerable Americans.
We must watch very carefully to make sure that the humanitarian efforts for the Haitians are the most effective for the largest number, rather than helping a few move to the U.S. and enticing far more to risk their lives to get the same treatment.