I recently filed an op-ed at Latino Rebels where I discussed how the U.S. government and the corporate media have failed asylum-seekers by leaving out important context. They rarely, if ever, discuss the impacts of U.S. policy in many countries around the world. None more so than those that reside just South of the imperialist empire that is the United States. When it comes to Haiti, you’d be hard-pressed to find another nation within the hemisphere that has been more oppressed.
Among all Latin American and Caribbean Island (LACI) nations, Haiti is struggling with COVID more than any other country in the region. A meager 0.37% of the total population has been at least partly vaccinated. Meanwhile, Cuba has achieved a 79% vaccination rate while the United States comes in at 64%. Had Cuba not developed their own vaccine —yes, they did that— they would be no better off than their neighbors (Jamaica has an 18% vaccination rate). These are numbers that reflect the lack of concern U.S. policymakers have towards LACI populations.
To say Haiti is in “crisis” isn’t serving its purpose. It’s a word too often used in media reports to describe asylum-seekers at our borders. The situation in Haiti is dire and there are no publicly available plans to help address any of their problems. The difficulties Haitians face are largely due to the continuous interventions by the U.S. through policy on behalf of corporate interests and philanthropic corruption. Similar policies are employed to repress the populations in other LACI countries, however, Haiti seems to suffer from them the most.
The United States has made a business out of installing dictators in the hemisphere. U.S. policy has been quite visible about disrupting LACI nations, overthrowing their governments, and installing U.S.-friendly leadership. Make no mistake, these actions are done for the sole purpose of extracting and stealing the wealth of Latin Americans and Caribbean Islanders (LACIs). The United States routinely promises all the things. A liberal democracy not unlike our own, personal liberties, and economic growth. However, that rarely pans out as Indigenous people are robbed of their lands, left homeless, and forced to live in the inner cities as their country is exploited.
The process of stealing land is still ongoing in Latin America.
The Profit Motive
Obviously, there’s a profit motive to all of this. But, when it comes to getting Haitians vaccinated, it gets dark fast. Mostly because it’s right in front of our faces. In the U.S., we have people throwing temper tantrums like toddlers because they don’t want to be vaccinated or wear a mask. Meanwhile, countries like Haiti, Jamaica, and countless African nations are literally dying to get their hands on vaccines. Western nations have shown nothing but a complete disregard for countries with Black populations. A notion I can’t seem to get past because the intent is so obvious.
Recently, Amnesty International released a report titled, “A Double Dose of Inequality: Pharma Companies and the Covid 19 Crisis.” In it, they argue that “Six companies at the helm of the Covid-19 vaccine roll-out are fuelling an unprecedented human rights crisis through their refusal to waive intellectual property rights and share vaccine technology, with most failing to prioritize vaccine deliveries to poorer countries.”
Agnès Callamard, Amnesty International’s Secretary-General said, “It’s plunging parts of Latin America, Africa, and Asia into renewed crises, pushing weakened health systems to the very brink and causing tens of thousands of preventable deaths every week. In many low-income countries, not even health workers and people at-risk have received the vaccine. Against the backdrop of these gross inequalities BioNTech, Moderna and Pfizer are set to make US$130 billion combined by the end of 2022. Profits should never come before lives.”
Vaccine developers have all but monopolized intellectual property and pushed hard against measures to expand the manufacturing process making the vaccines more widely available. This inaction is causing harm to millions of people who still do not have access to lifesaving vaccines. It’s a bit sinister to see corporate lackeys profiting from the pandemic as they shirk their duty as humans to protect our neighbors to the South. Since the population in Haiti is Black, they clearly don’t feel the need to up the ante and save millions of people.
And that says all you need to know about U.S. corporate interests in LACI nations.
Locking the Doors
In addition to creating near-unlivable environments in the United States’ own backyard, when citizens of these countries come to the door seeking refuge —largely due to promises not kept by their imperialist neighbor— the U.S. shuts the door in their faces. We saw it when Trump was in office and we’re seeing it with Biden in office. Subpar immigration policy and the maltreatment of asylum-seekers transcends political parties and four-year presidential terms. This has been ongoing for decades. We got to where we are now through incrementalism.
Little by little, each administration made things worse for asylum-seekers, and with each passing policy decision, the inhumane treatment of migrants at the Southern border became more acceptable. For example, after seeing and hearing kids in cages under Trump, the abuses by our law enforcement apparatus at the border are now largely ignored despite there being more than 10,000 migrant children currently in custody. Many were even hesitant to criticize Biden despite the imagery from the border, which to me, makes them just as complicit as Ted Cruz and Trump supporters who supported family separation policies.
That would be 202 more children than the September 28 report. The September 28 report listed 13,073 children. pic.twitter.com/sG11XC5EmS
— Julio Ricardo Varela (@julito77) September 29, 2021
Steven Miller of the Trump administration employed the use of Title 42 to keep migrants out during the pandemic. Miller, who sought to invoke the government’s public health authority to close the Southern border long before coronavirus, finally found a statute he can manipulate to keep LACI migrants out of the country. Title 42 is a 75-year-old law called the Public Health Service Act. Its intent was not to keep people out but to give the government authority to quarantine anyone, including U.S. citizens arriving from a foreign country.
The law was never meant to be used in the way Trump used it. Similar to the utter disregard for Haitian asylum seekers, it’s painfully obvious Trump was targeting LACI asylum-seekers coming to the U.S. by land via the Southern border. Biden is also complicit after invoking the use of Title 42 to deny Haitians due process. It has also been employed in thousands of other cases along the border essentially maintaining much of Trump’s abhorrent practices.
Despite the efforts of the scientific community objecting to the border closures citing no public health benefits in battling COVID, Title 42 all but slammed the doors on non-white asylum seekers. As the U.S. shirked mask mandates and as the coronavirus ravaged the country, the government continued allowing tens of millions of travelers to freely cross the Southern Border without requirements for testing or quarantining. Meanwhile, the United States expelled over 980,000 children and adults seeking refuge. Haitians are the latest victims of anti-Black and anti-Latino immigration policy enforced by the repressive policing apparatus in the U.S.
There are many different issues to discuss when talking about the plight of Haitians. It serves no one to sit on the sidelines and watch what we all saw and remain silent. Most of us are glad Trump’s white nationalist administration is gone, but that doesn’t mean Joe Biden is above criticism. Don’t get mad at us when he does something like he’s doing right now. Get mad at him. Let me ask you this: Do some of you think putting cops who brutalized other humans on desk duty is satisfactory? Because it sure as hell isn’t to me.
By not cracking down on the abuses by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the Biden administration validates the behavior that became so commonplace under Trump. He’s allowing for the holdover of agents who are manipulating the system for political gain.
This administration’s toned-down response to the disgusting acts is disturbing. They tried to say the right things but the outrage just isn’t there. If anything, it feels like they’re trying to play it off much as Biden tried to do when he told immigration rights activists to vote for Trump.
That, my friends, is a huge problem.
Arturo Domínquez is a first-generation Cuban American father of three young men, an anti-racist, journalist, and publisher of The Antagonist Magazine. If you’d like to learn more about the issues covered here, follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. You can also support his work here and here.