By MARTY GOODMAN
As if 200 years of U.S. racism and imperialism weren’t enough, Haitians must contend with the idiotic rantings of the U.S. commander in chief, Donald Trump. “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” asked Trump at a Jan. 11 immigration meeting.
Trump was referring to Haiti, El Salvador, and African states, provoking worldwide outrage. During the meeting he asked, “Why do we need more Haitians?” “Take them out.” according to sources cited in a Jan. 12 Washington Post article. And that wasn’t enough for Trump, who added, “Put me down for wanting more Europeans to come to this country. Why don’t we get more people from Norway?”
Initially, the White House refused to deny the reports, but Trump tweeted a denial the next day that merely admitted to non-specific “tough talk” and added, “I have a wonderful relationship with Haitians.”
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) confirmed the report, saying Trump used the term “shithole countries” repeatedly; he called Trump’s rant “hate-filled, vile, and disgusting.” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) confirmed Trump’s “shithole countries” slander in a comment to the Post, overheard by Sen. Tim Scott. Said Scott, Graham told the Post that the remarks attributed to Trump are “basically accurate.” Even the United Nations, usually under the thumb of U.S. imperialism, called Trump’s remarks “racist.”
Trump’s arrogant “shithole” comments were made on the eve of the eighth anniversary of the catastrophic Haitian earthquake, Jan. 12, 2010, which killed up to 300,000 and injured many more in a country of 10 million. Virtually every Haitian family was affected.
Trump: “They all have AIDS!”
On Sept. 16, 2016, candidate Trump said to a small gathering of Haitian Americans in Miami, “I really want to be your biggest champion.” Many recalled Trump’s empty promises after his Nov. 20 racist termination of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for 60,000 Haitians who fled in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake, a cholera plague, and a post-hurricane Mathew Haiti. TPS Haitians support 250,000 relatives back home. Haiti is in no condition to receive deportees!
The falsity of those promises was also demonstrated last June, at a White House meeting on immigration, when Trump was presented with a list of immigrants by country. After seeing that 15,000 had entered from Haiti, Trump snarled, they “all have AIDS” (The New York Times, Dec. 23, 2017).
The astonishing ignorance and racism of Trump toward Haitians was a throwback to the AIDS hysteria of the 1980s. At the time, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning that “Haitians and sub-Saharan Africans” were highly susceptible to AIDS and banned blood donations by Haitians. Racist stereotyping exploded, but they were, of course, lies. The FDA determination was removed in 1990, but not before 100,000 Haitians and supporters massed at the Federal Building in downtown Manhattan and basically shut the city down in April 1990—proving again the power of mass action!
As if these attacks weren’t enough, Trump has vowed to keep open the notorious Guantanamo, Cuba, gulag, which Obama pledged to close. The early 90s struggle for the entry of HIV-positive Haitians imprisoned in Guantanamo spawned a fight-back of Haitian activists and supporters and AIDS activists in ACT-UP. A combination of street actions and legal battles, led by attorney Michael Ratner, led to the release of the HIV Haitians. Continuing Guantanamo as a human rights atrocity shows how fleeting are victories under capitalism.
DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program was also ended on Sept. 5 by Trump, affecting 800,000 children of “illegal” immigrants who are now subject to deportation. Socialists say, “No one is illegal!” “Defend TPS and DACA!” “Full citizenship for TPS Haitians and DACA recipients!”
Concerning the “shithole” remark, Marlene Bastien of Haitian Women of Miami told Socialist Action, “I think his comments were racist and outright disrespectful. To make a comment like that would be out of ignorance. Some people are feeling the impact on their children.”
“The U.S. owes so much to Haiti. One thousand free men came to shed their blood in Savannah [Ga.] to fight for U.S. independence. Just to be able to defeat Napoleon, who had the mightiest army at that time, allowed the U.S. to double in size with the Louisiana purchase.”
On Jan. 15, Martin Luther King’s birthday, some 10,000 to 12,000 angry protesters—including many Haitian immigrants—poured into Times Square in Manhattan. The anger of the crowd was not matched by militant demands and was muzzled by the presence of several capitalist politicians, including “progressive” Mayor Bill de Blasio, whose housing policies continue to force record numbers into homelessness. However, some protesters marched up to Trump Tower at 56th Street and Madison Avenue.
Haiti Liberté journalist and activist Kim Ives spoke to Socialist Action about the newly formed 1804 Movement, comprised of grassroots organizations that met on Jan. 13 at the Haiti Liberté office in Brooklyn. Present were 50 activists from the New York and New Jersey area. Participating organizations include Le Caye, the Lavalas Family, Haiti Solidarity Network in New Jersey, as well as leftist parties, including Petit Dessalines, the Black Alliance for Justice in Immigration, Haiti Liberté newspaper, and U.S. socialist groups.
On the cold morning of Jan.19, the 1804 Movement led a protest of between 500 to 1000 Haitians and supporters who marched from Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn over the Brooklyn Bridge to rally at the Trump Building on Wall Street.
Haitian American unionist Marie Paule Florestal made these remarks: “The 1804 Movement for All Immigrants has chosen to demonstrate on Wall Street because we condemn the politics of both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. We condemn both the Republican and Democratic parties. We condemn the entire political and economic system which enslaves this country, but also enslaves our countries, where our families and compatriots are forced to work for pennies a day for U.S. corporations.
“If we in the Caribbean, Latin America, Africa, or Asia try to flee our plight, to sell our smarts and labor elsewhere, we are arrested by the U.S. Coast Guard or Border Patrol. In short, we are imprisoned in our homelands. But the U.S. demands complete freedom to buy land, set up businesses, and sell products there. Our sovereign nations are, in fact, modern colonies, neo-colonies.”
In Haiti, Mario Joseph, a human rights attorney and a protest leader, said, “On many occasions in the past we have been victims of imperialist countries, particularly the United States.” Even Haiti’s corrupt Senate on Thursday declared their country “is the expression of refusal to be humiliated, since the founding fathers engaged in an epic combat against slavery, colonialism, and racism to indicate to the oppressed peoples of the world the way to freedom.”
One Port au Prince protest drew 2000. “Trump is a vulgar racist, and a racist is a very poor-minded person,” said protester Marvel Joseph. “We don’t feel any resentment against the American people, who we know largely disapprove of Trump’s behavior in the White House.”
Batay Ouvirye (Worker’s Fight) in Haiti released a statement, which reads in part: “For all peoples around the world, if they are calling us shitholes, it’s the capitalist class that is the cause! Let’s coordinate our struggles to overthrow and in this way uproot capitalism with all its racism.”
More Trump racism
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced Jan. 18 that people from Haiti, Belize, and Samoa are no longer eligible to apply for H-2A visas for farm work and H-2B visas for non-farmworker jobs. The department said the nations had a high rate of fraud, abuse, and people overstaying their visa time limits. The overstay rate for Haitians is over 39 percent, out of roughly 1500 H-2 immigrant workers in 2016, the DHS stated.
However, those DHS statistics about Haitians were disputed on the Young Turks TV program, posted Jan. 25 (Huffington Post). Citing DHS figures for “overstays” on H-2 visas in 2016, Haitians had, in fact, far fewer in that category. Haitians were only 3.86% “overstays,” compared to people from Afghanistan (13.7%) and Jordan (5.97%), to name a few. A Pew Institute study of 2015 “overstays” found that Canada had 93,000 “overstays,” Mexico 42,000, Germany 21,000, etc.
The conclusion? The Trump administration lied about Haitians as revenge for blowback after Trump’s “shithole” comments. The U.S. and Haiti need revolution!