Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Prioritising U.S. Interests

At the same time as the US authorities and their military are being widely accused of screwing up the aid effort in Haiti by their inept management of the airport, bringing in too many military flights at the expense of food, medicines and rescue equipment; being too reticent to venture out into the city itself because they 'might get shot at'; and some even saying that their whole operation looks like a start of a military occupation; their efforts to prevent refugees from reaching their shores appear excessive.

First off, they have at least one plane flying and broadcasting radio messages five hours a day over Haiti, saying (in Creole) "Listen, don't rush on boats to leave the country. If you do that, we'll all have even worse problems. Because, I'll be honest with you: If you think you will reach the U.S. and all the doors will be wide open to you, that's not at all the case. And they will intercept you right on the water and send you back home where you came from."

Admittedly, last week the Obama administration's also decided to grant temporary protected status to Haitians in the U.S. before the earthquake, either as 'illegal' migrants or as so-called 'foreign-national' prisoners due for deportation after serving a prison sentence. They will be free to stay in the States for the next 18 months but that offer does not extend to those attempting to enter the U.S. after the 12 January.

Instead, the Department of Homeland Security has activated the Operation Vigilant Sentry task force to review plans on how to respond to a mass migration from Haiti. Their first move was to transfer between 250 and 400 immigration detainees from South Florida's main detention centre to clear space for any Haitians who manage to reach US shores. That of course does not apply to those who already have family in the States and can still afford the US visas and airfares, the middle class Haitians replete with suitcases seen on TV News pictures today boarding flights to the States.

The US has also taken the opportunity to ease restrictions on adoption, making it easier for Haitian orphans to be adopted by Americans. This removes an important barrier to plans by the Catholic Church in Miami, dubbed 'Pierre Pan' (sic) for the mass transportation of orphans to the States. They certainly seem to have their priorities in order.

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