U.S. immigration policy is unfair

It happens at least once a year. The newspaper headlines may be different, but the story is always the same. Just a few days ago, 220 Haitian refugees made their way to American soil looking for just about anything better than their politically and economically treacherous island. Once again, America seems more than ready to turn back yet another wave of desperate people before giving them any real chance of applying for asylum.
These refugees have caused Americans to resume the heated debate about our policy on immigration. The questions that arise from this debate evoke some passionate emotions from citizens of every persuasion. Many Americans are expressing the desire to have our country simply close its doors to all immigrants. After all, to these people, an influx of poor immigrants with no connections in the United States is threatening. If these immigrants get jobs, they will be seen as “taking” them from other Americans. If they can’t find work, there is fear that they will end up being supported on welfare by taxpayers who don’t necessarily have very much money to spare. Either way, according to these anti-immigration factions, the outcome is bleak.
However, regardless of the credibility of the anti-immigration argument, the fact is that current immigration laws in the United States are simply unfair and must be revised. They do not give Haitians the same chance that other immigrants have, and that is wrong. Perhaps many people fear such revision because it seems synonymous with opening the doors to anyone and everyone who wishes to leave their country and pursue the proverbial American Dream. This view is incorrect. Pushing for revision of the current immigration laws has nothing to do with indiscriminately letting every immigrant into the country. Instead, it entails a realization that these laws are unjust and that they must be changed so that one group is not allowed free passage while another is relentlessly turned away.
To paint a clearer picture, here is a very simplified version of the immigration laws as they apply to Haitians versus other similar groups. The United States allows Cubans fleeing a communist country to stay in America as long as they reach dry land. Also, refugees from Asia, South America, and most of the Caribbean can be released to friends or sponsors while they apply for asylum as long as they can convince asylum officers that they face persecution if returned home. Haitians, however, are interned in prison-like conditions for weeks or months at a time waiting for their appeals for asylum to be processed. More often than not, the decision goes against them.
Ostensibly, the reason for this policy is that Haiti is considered to be a democratic nation and the refugees are considered to be economic refugees who face no political persecution. Granted, many Haitians may indeed be fleeing their country because of the stifling poverty that they face.
Even so, Haiti has a long history of political repression, and to call it a democracy is a bit like calling Castro’s regime a benevolent dictatorship. Just because Haiti is a “democracy” doesn’t mean that its citizens don’t live in the same squalor and political climate in which citizens of communist countries live. The Haitian refugees must have the same chance as every other group of refugees, and the laws must be changed to allow them that chance.

November 5, 2002


The Miami Hurricane

Student newspaper at the University of Miami

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