Thursday, March 22, 2007

What would Hillary, Obama or Edwards do?

AAPPundit says: I just finished revisiting the article Carribbean Boat People: Clinton's First Crisis, written by Daniel James back in December 1992. It's a great article. I read it again after posting the fact that (hat Tip Angela) Hillary Clinton is getting support from Timbaland.

I wondered, why are people deciding who to support so early in the election cycle, when we don't know the full positions of the candidates yet. Then I wondered, if elected President what would Hillary, Obama or Edwards do if confronted with the Haitian and Cuban boat people crisis? Would Hillary do things different from what her husband did? What would Obama Do? What would Edwards do? Has anyone ever posed the question to them? Did Timbaland?

Read the article if you would. Then ask the question: What would Hillary, Obama or Edwards do?

Do you know?


Carribbean Boat People: Clinton's First Crisis

by Daniel James

By the time he is inaugurated on Jan. 20, President-elect Bill Clinton may be faced with a record flood of both Haitian and Cuban boat people. Besides, immigration from the Dominican Republic -- our biggest Caribbean immigrant sending country -- and Jamaica is even greater, though underpublicized. The convergence of these trends could produce a major crisis.

Clinton's election, reports The New York Times (Nov. 23), made Haitians "giddy" with expectation that he will either restore democracy to their unhappy country or welcome them into the U.S. "with open arms." Hundreds of boats are now being readied to sail the nearly 500 miles of choppy Caribbean waters to Miami, Coast Guard aerial surveillance reveals. Some are being built with wood ripped from their ramshackle homes.

A parallel rush of boat people is expected from that other oppressed Caribbean island, Cuba. They have continued crowding into Florida since the 1980 Mariel boatlift, when 125,000 of them arrived. They are not necessarily reacting to Clinton's election. Quite simply, as one Cuban refugee explained: "There is nothing in Cuba. Everyone wants to leave."

The Haitian Problem

Haiti's situation is worst of all. Generations of corrupt politicians, businessmen, and generals have virtually destroyed a once-flourishing economy, while illiterate peasants have eroded the once fertile land and cut down the trees to burn and sell them for charcoal.

To aggravate matters, Haiti's population grows exponentially. The UN estimates (official Haitian figures are notoriously unreliable) that it has increased from 4.5 million in 1970 to about 6.8 million today. Its natural increase rate is 2.9 percent, highest in the hemisphere.

The underlying problem is that Haiti, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic and other Caribbean countries suffer from economic growth rates that are too low to support high population growth rates. (Cuba, though with a lower population growth rate, nevertheless has more people than its economy can afford.) Unless steps are taken to reduce population to sustainable levels, boatlifts are virtually guaranteed to continue indefinitely.

President-elect Clinton has not yet addressed the much greater overall Caribbean problem, but has commented on the Haitian exodus. During the election campaign, he said he opposed President Bush's policy of interdicting and repatriating Haitian asylum-seekers. He indicated that he would be generous toward them, implying that they were fleeing to the U.S. to escape persecution under Haiti's military regime. That attitude, however, aroused concern among his own followers as well as opponents that he would open up the floodgates to Haitian boat people.

At a Capitol Hill press conference on Nov. 19, Clinton tried to allay such fears. He said that he stood by his opposition to Bush's policy yet agreed that "the distinction between economic and political refugees was a legitimate one and if you wipe it away altogether you do violence to our immigration laws" -- the policy's raison d'etre. He further reassured, "I've tried to send out a clear signal...that I think it would be very unwise for anybody to think that I'm going to articulate a policy that would promote mass migration."

But he also said he wanted to give Haitians "the chance to make a case that they should be granted asylum in this country temporarily until we can see a democratically elected government restored to Haiti." However, the return to office of freely elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who was ousted by the military in September 1991, would not "restore" democracy and halt the tide of boat people. Democracy has been non-existent in Haiti since its independence, in 1804, and emigration is likely to continue rising as it has for over a generation regardless of who rules.

The net result, so far, of Clinton's offer to grant Haitians "temporary" asylum has been to tacitly encourage them to prepare to flee their country en masse by Jan. 20.

The Bush Administration argues that its repatriation policy is justified because Haitians are leaving their country not for political, but economic reasons -- one cannot make a living there.

Nevertheless, in July the 2nd U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that the Bush policy violates the Refugee Act of 1980. The Administration has persuaded the U.S. Supreme Court to take the case, holding that the ruling interfered with its foreign policy. The Supreme Court is expected to issue its verdict early in 1993.

The chief difference between Bush and Clinton is that the latter would give Haitians a "chance to make [their] case" for asylum. But Clinton did not specify where that might take place -- a key question. No third country is willing to accept Haitians en masse for screening. Our naval base at Guantanamo, Cuba, where Haitians have been interned before repatriation, can accommodate only 12,500. That leaves the continental U.S. as the only alternative site. But such an option is fraught with frightening implications. More>

This entry is crossposted on African American Political Pundit and the Independent Blogger Alliance