Last week’s arrival off the shores of Miami of over 200 Haitian refugees highlights an immigration policy that is inherently unfair. While I do not believe that the policy of detaining them while their cases are pending is a racist one, it nevertheless needs to be consistent with the policies for all other nations of origin. Certainly the overall inconsistency with regards to granting only certain nationalities asylum did not begin with the current presidential administration; nevertheless the policy needs to be changed.
Traditionally, the United States has been a place where the politically oppressed of the world could look for hope of refuge. While the fall of communism in Eastern Europe and the subsequent collapse of the Soviet Union ended one form of political oppression, those two events did not end every form. Ninety miles south of our shores in Cuba, a brutal totalitarianism still thrives. It used to call itself Communist, but today it is only the reflection of one man’s brutal desires. Allowing citizens fleeing this tyranny sanctuary in the United States is the right thing to do. After all, Castro’s Cuba is a nation where a man was just released from three years in prison for nothing more than flying the Cuban national flag upside down.
Clearly, when a person cannot exercise their right to vote or go about the normal activities of their daily life without fear of becoming a victim of physical violence, then is that not a form of political oppression? If the reports coming out of Haiti concerning lawless gangs operating at the behest of political strongmen are true, then it most certainly is. This is not to say that everyone attempting to emigrate from Haiti or anywhere else is to automatically be granted asylum. Restricting immigration for economic reasons is the correct policy for the simple reason that if the law permitted anyone to emigrate here due only to the economic conditions in their nation of origin, we would face a social services crisis unseen in over 70 years. However, if such negative economic conditions have been caused by an unscrupulous political regime such as in Ethiopia and Somalia, then it’s not merely an economic issue – it’s political oppression. The current immigration policy should be re-defined to include this, or America cannot remain that shining beacon of refuge it was always meant to be.
Scott Wacholtz is a junior majoring in computer science and political science.