Stop Exclusion and Deportation of
Full Citizenship Rights for All Immigrants!
Workers Revolution the Answer
Destruction after Hurricane Matthew in Jérémie on Haiti’s southern peninsula, October 6.
On September 21, the Department of Homeland Security announced that it was resuming deportations of Haitians from the U.S. (Since the 2010 earthquake, Haitians arriving in the U.S. were granted Temporary Protected Status.) Less than two weeks later a category 4 hurricane struck the impoverished Caribbean island nation, leaving hundreds dead, houses flattened, bridges collapsed and the whole southern peninsula cut off from ground transportation to bring in supplies. Nevertheless, DHS chief Jeh Johnson announced that the new policy of “removals of Haitian nationals … has not changed in light of Hurricane Matthew.” This cruel policy is a distillation of the racist treatment meted out to Haiti by U.S. rulers for over two centuries.
While some “removal flights” were temporarily suspended, the policy of rounding up Haitians for deportation “remains in effect.” In the meantime, well over 1,000 Haitians are waiting just across the border in Tijuana, Mexico. Husbands have been separated from wives and children among the 5,000 admitted to the U.S. prior to the policy change. Those arriving at border checkpoints are now being locked up in detention camps until they are deported. Thousands more are reportedly making the 7,000-mile journey from Brazil, where they were brought following the 2010 earthquake, employed as cheap labor until losing their jobs as economic crisis hit last year.
For decades, the U.S. has been stopping desperate Haitian refugees in rickety boats on the high seas. Until the mid-1990s they were held in the U.S. naval base at Guantánamo, stolen from Cuba as booty from after the 1898 war with Spain at the dawn of the U.S. imperialism. (More recently, the Guantánamo base has become infamous as a torture and detention center for “terror suspects” picked up by the U.S. in its Middle Eastern wars.) After the earthquake six years ago that destroyed the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince and towns to the south such as Léogâne, Haitians reaching the U.S. were granted Temporary Protected Status. Now that has ended.
Immediately after the new U.S. policy was announced, the Internationalist Group and League for the Fourth International called for internationally coordinated protests against the racist deportations and exclusion of Haitians. In New York, an Ad Hoc Committee to Defend Haitians Against Deportations including, along with the IG and fraternal groups, the Batay Ouvriye Solidarity Network, student, solidarity and left groups, has called a demonstration on October 20 for the demands: “Stop Exclusion of Haitians! Stop All Deportations! Occupation Troops Out of Haiti!” Protests are also being held in San Diego, Tijuana and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Many Haitians wondered if the U.S. policy change was an attempt to influence elections in Haiti, which had been slated for October 9. (The voting has now been rescheduled for November 30 due to the effects of the hurricane.) What is certain is that the resumption of deportations of Haitians was a cynical election ploy in the U.S. to bolster the chances of Democrat Hillary Clinton. The Obama administration, in which she was secretary of state, saw the spectre of the 2014 Central American refugee crisis when tens of thousands of women and children sought asylum in the U.S. A repeat, they feared, would benefit Republican Donald Trump in whipping up anti-immigrant hysteria.
In fact, both capitalist parties are enemies of immigrants. As a leaflet of the Ad Hoc Committee noted, “Republican Donald Trump wants to deport 11 million undocumented immigrants and build a wall along the Mexican border,” while “Democrat Hillary Clinton was responsible for building the first segment of the wall (in San Diego), and represents the Obama administration, which has already deported more than 5 million.” Against the phony talk of “immigration reform” and a “path to citizenship” which Obama promised eight years ago, the IG and LFI call for full citizenship rights for all immigrants, whether in the U.S., Mexico or Brazil.
After the 2010 earthquake, the U.S. imperialists’ prime concern was to prevent “disorder” in its Haitian neo-colony, invading the country with thousands of troops in the guise of providing disaster relief. This time as well, Washington responded by sending an aircraft carrier and the amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima with 700 Marines aboard. In contrast, Cuba sent a brigade of doctors specialized in disaster situations (in addition to the 600 Cuban doctors serving in Haiti since the earthquake).
Also purporting to provide “security” for “humanitarian relief,” the Dominican Republic Haiti’s neighbor on the island of Quisqueya (Hispaniola), dispatched over 1,000 troops, settling in at a Haitian navy base. Last year, Dominican authorities ordered the expulsion of up to half a million people of Haitian origin, many of them born in the D.R. In addition, some 5,000 “U.N.” troops and police have imposed an imperialist occupation of Haiti since 2004. The mandate of this MINUSTAH mercenary force was renewed on October 13, scheduled to remain at least until next April to ensure that the next rigged election would take place under U.N. guns.
The endless disasters besetting Haiti are not the result of “natural” causes but of capitalism and the subjugation of the island by colonial and imperialist overlords going back to the birth of the first black republic in the world. The Haitian Revolution of 1791-1804 was the first successful slave revolution in history. It inspired slave revolts throughout the Americas, notably in the southern U.S. This led the slaveholders government in Washington to impose an economic boycott that lasted for more than half a century. Then came the occupation of Haiti in 1915 by a U.S. expeditionary force that stayed for two decades.
Ever since, U.S. imperialism has treated Haiti as a neo-colony, installing and removing presidents, using and disposing of Haitian workers as cheap labor, arming war lords and death squads. In particular, Hillary and Bill Clinton (who spent their honeymoon in Haiti, after having their first date crossing a union picket line at Yale University) have made Haiti a test-lab for their “public-private” profiteering. During his time in office, Bill Clinton “aided” Haiti by supplying subsidized rice that had the effect of wiping out Haiti’s rice-growing industry. This “Miami rice” actually comes from Arkansas, where Clinton had been governor. So he aided Arkansas agribusinesses and destroyed Haiti’s ability to feed itself.
Hillary and Bill Clinton (center) celebrate opening of the SAE-A factory in Caracol Industrial Park, October 2012. The sweatshop garment factory, owned by a notorious Korean union-buster, pays women workers less than $5 a day. It was built with millions of dollars siphoned by Hillary’s State Department and Bill’s Clinton Foundation from disaster relief funds, even though the site is far from the quake zone. Hillary’s former chief of staff is now a business partner with the owner of SAE-A.
After the 2010 earthquake, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton siphoned off millions of dollars of relief and reconstruction funds to set up an industrial park in Caracol, on Haiti’s north shore, far from the disaster zone. The mainstay of the complex was a sweatshop operated by the Korean company Sae-A Trading, which pays its women workers less than $5 a day. Sae-A Trading is notorious for using violence in union-busting in Guatemala. Subsequently, the Sae-A chairman became a donor to the Clinton Foundation and set up an investment company with Hillary’s chief of staff Cheryl Mills to operate in Africa and the Caribbean.
The 2011 election that installed singer Michel (“Sweet Mickey”) Martelly, a defender of the dictatorship of “Baby Doc” Duvalier that ruled Haiti for U.S. imperialism in the 1980s, was essentially decided in e-mail messages between Hillary’s top aide Mills at the State Department and Bill’s top aide Laura Graham at the Clinton Foundation. The secretary of state visited Haiti in person to ensure that Martelly was included in a run-off election even though he got less votes. Earlier this year, after Martelly fled the island, the U.S. tried to impose its preferred flunkey in a one-candidate run-off vote. But after protests Haitian authorities finally annulled the vote.
Beyond the endless abuses and invasions by U.S. imperialism, the torment of Haiti is the result of the relentless workings of imperialist capitalism in its semi-colonies. The shantytowns in Haiti resemble the favelas in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and the belt of misery surrounding Mexico City. The residents are former peasants forced off their lands by free-trade policies and the expansion of giant agribusiness corporations. The shoddy construction that led to the collapse of houses in Port-au-Prince in 2010, producing up to half a million deaths, reflected the same practices in Mexico City where tens of thousands were killed in the 1985 quake.
The fact is that it will take a revolution to put an end to the impoverishment and wanton destruction of human life that fuels the capitalist profit machine. For comparison one need only look at the effect of Hurricane Matthew next door, where it spread a trail of destruction across southeast Cuba. Estimates of the number of dead in Haiti range from the government’s figure of a little over 500 to unofficial estimates of over 1,000. But according to the Miami Herald (19 October) “no loss of life was reported in Cuba.” The reason: first, that disaster-prone ramshackle homes which are the norm in Haiti are far rarer in Cuba; and second, Cuba’s exemplary disaster mobilization system evacuated more than 1 million people to safe shelters in schools and other public institutions.
This is the difference that a revolution can make, along with Cuba’s free, high quality medical care that is a model internationally. Cuba is a bureaucratically deformed workers state, whose leaders seek illusory “peaceful coexistence” with U.S. imperialism. With its Stalinist program of building “socialism in one country,” the ruling bureaucracy opposes the Bolshevik-Leninist program of international socialist revolution. Even so, because the Cuban economy is not based on the drive for profits, Cuba has been able to protect the population against the tropical storms which beset the region (and whose growing intensity has been linked to capitalist-induced climate change) in a way that no Latin American capitalist state has.
Haitian workers march on May Day 2016 demanding raise in minimum wage.
The real solution to Haiti’s poverty and tragic loss of thousands of life in massacres and man-made “natural” calamities is to fight for workers revolution – not only in this impoverished half of an island, but also next door in the Dominican Republic and in the imperialist heartland of the U.S. Dominican and Haitian rulers have long stoked nationalist hatreds, yet working people on both halves of the island are exploited by the same bosses and repressed by the allied murderous police and military repressors. The League for the Fourth International, upholding the program of permanent revolution of Leon Trotsky, co-leader together with V.I. Lenin of the 1917 Russian Bolshevik Revolution, fights for Haitian-Dominican workers revolution in a voluntary socialist federation of the Caribbean.
The October 20 protests demanding an end to the exclusion of Haitian immigrants and a stop to all deportations point to the need for struggle for socialist revolution to overthrow capitalism from the Latin American neo-colonies to the imperialist centers. In New York City, Domnican and Haitian immigrants toil in low-wage jobs, often at the same workplaces, and are beset by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) cops, the hated migra. This could lay the basis of common struggle to overcome the decades of murderous hatreds instigated by the bosses, spurred on by imperialist politicians like Democrat Clinton and Republican Trump.
International protests from Brazil to Mexico and the United States point to the struggle to build internationalist revolutionary workers parties, as part of a reforged Fourth International, the world party of socialist revolution.■