“Democrats and Republicans are not very different when it comes to international policy”
We spoke with Mamyrah Dougé-Prosper, Haitian activist and academic, about the situation of migrants and also about the situation in Haiti.
What's happening now? Why is the situation exploding now? Why were all those migrants in the same time at the same place?
The people at the border are not just Haitians, you have many people coming out of Central America. And Haitians are not new to this type of migration toward the U.S. border. In 2018 they were already crossing 11 countries coming out of Brazil and Chile to arrive at the border. Of course, there's an emphasis on the Haitians because ten thousand of them ended up in Texas, and it's not completely clear who is leading them there. I mean, there are a couple of theories or conspiracies, but essentially people are communicating via things like WhatsApp, and people at the California border (people living in Tijuana or near) were redirected to Texas, and were said that that border was going to be easier to get through, which obviously wasn't the case.
When and why did this migration pattern start? And why Brazil and Chile?
Why they started in Brazil and Chile is very tied to the U.N. occupation. Instability in Haiti -that is the result of U.S. Empire- is leading these people to the U.S. You can start seeing in 2018 Haitians going to Brazil specifically. And if you look back at 2004 when there's a coup d'etat in Haiti and you have this U.N. mission, Brazil and Chile are at the head of this mission. So there's a direct relationship in terms of why Haitians chose to go to Brazil. It's not really a choice. But people were essentially recruited to work on the World Cup stadiums, the Olympic stadiums, because they became the cheapest labor in Brazil. And after they were used, there were no more jobs for them. And they don't have papers. They have to start thinking about next steps. And there are large Haitian communities in the United States, so people tend to have family already there.
So it`s really a long time they have been migrating…
In 2008 Haitians started to go to Brazil, but we see an upsurge under the current party that's still in power in Haiti, that was put in place in 2010 under the blessing of Hillary Clinton. The Democrats of the United States essentially manipulated Haitian sovereign elections to ensure that this party comes to power. And there was an earthquake in 2010 that also caused these migration patterns, not just outside but also within Haiti. But with this party coming to power, they accelerated the liberal plan, which is essentially a four axis plan of development: tourism, large plantations, agribusiness and also the industrial parks and mining, but all of these different projects of development require land. So it means you have to displace people from their lands and part of this forced migration is related to land dispossession. You're forced off of your land either because you've been sort of tricked to sell it with this idea that you're going to make money to move to the cities or you've been kicked off the land even if you didn't want to sell it. Or even there are many people who have occupied lands for hundreds of years who don't necessarily have legal papers and are displaced. So it is still not very clear to make these connections directly to the 10,000 migrants and whether they are the folks who are directly displaced. But we saw the earthquake led to displacement internally and externally in 2010. And this party took away land from people. It took away their livelihood, and that means people have to start leaving. Some people have paid four thousand just to make it to Brazil, which means they're selling their possessions, they're selling their land.
And now these people are arriving to the U.S. border…
Imagine those people who ended up in Brazil walking to 11 countries to reach the U.S. border, and there were reports that between September 19 and 29 there were at least 18 flights that brought back fifty-five hundred Haitians. And these are people who left because they didn't have a good life in Haiti and now who are returned. And there is definitely a contradiction in U.S. policy or the way that the U.S. is talking about Haiti. They issue travel advisories that say “don't go to Haiti, they're gangs and kidnappings and insecurity. This is not a place anybody should go”. And yet they deport thousands of people into a place that they said is not livable. And at the same time that you're having Haitians deported, you're having thirty-five thousand Afghanis being welcomed to the United States.
Biden said before starting his mandate that with him the politics with migrants would be different, would be more humanitarian. And now we have this. And Daniel Foote quit his position. What is your opinion on that?
It doesn't really matter whether Democrat or Republican is in office. The U.S. foreign policy is the same, particularly when it comes to Haiti. Democrats and Republicans are not very different when it comes to international policy. And Biden went to little Haiti in Miami to talk to the Haitian community about voting for them. And we saw as soon as Biden came in, he was deporting Haitians. And there are lots of quotes circulating with Vice President Kamala Harris, when she was a candidate, being extremely critical of Trump for putting people in cages and separating families. And what she didn't say was that that policy was actually brought by Obama, the Democrats. Trump inherited this type of practice from the Obama administration. So we see that the Democrats, when it comes to immigration, are not the liberals that we think they're supposed to be.
And also Biden has to appease a white voter base that's not very happy with him. Why would he let in a bunch of black Haitians? So they're constantly playing this game of compromising with the other side that's opposing them. And of course, the Haitians are the most undesirable migrants, not just in the United States, it is the case in the Bahamas, in Guyana, in Martinique and Guadeloupe. They're always the ones who are being stripped of citizenship or returned to Haiti. This is a regional practice. I mean, we put the heat on the United States, of course, because it claims to be promoting democracy and human rights, and we're hearing ten thousand people at the border. But this is true for Haitians all over the region.
So I have no confidence that Biden is going to change directions. And we saw the same thing in the nineties when Bill Clinton was going up for election, he made a lot of promises to the Haitians and they voted for him, and then nothing. This is a practice in general of the Democrats. When it comes to the black population, not only Haitians as a black group, but also to African-Americans, they try to seduce them into voting for them and they make their promises: “We're going to change the conditions. We're going to create jobs; we're going to address police violence”. They're very radical in their speeches as candidates and as soon as they come to power, you can't tell the difference between them and the Republicans.
Is there any kind of black solidarity between United States citizens and black migrants?
Yes. I myself was part of a coordination of several different organizations here in the United States and Canada and throughout Latin America. We've had a lot of black organizations, Haitian-American organizations, but also black organizations who identify with all types of people who stand up for the Haitians, putting out statements and pressure to the administration, protesting at the U.N. and various other sites that symbolize U.S. power. We are seeing right now another round of afro descendant solidarity across the Americas and particularly of Black Americans that it's very strong. Leftists specifically, but generally African Americans, I think, are in solidarity with Haitians. Even after 2010 earthquake, one out of two Americans who gave support to reconstruction efforts were African-Americans. So there is a sort of black consciousness and also they look to Haiti as a place that they're responsible for in some way, whether in a paternalistic way or in a form of solidarity. There is the understanding that we are connected.
Do you think the several crises in Haiti (violence, magnicide, earthquake) could be influencing the quantity of Haitian migrants?
These people have been walking for months, so they're coming from way before. But I think the connection exists, it is related to the party in power, as I said before. You can see this migration pattern to Brazil since 2008. And we see an acceleration, particularly since 2016. And you have the occupation with the transitional government and the 2010 earthquake. That's definitely a reason to have people moving around. But you have this party that comes into power and the party has the only purpose to push for the new development plans, liberal development plans and also steal the money. Then you have the scandal with the Venezuela fund. There was a possibility for the government to finally build public housing, build hospitals, roads, but instead these people used this opportunity to steal the money. So you have earthquake reconstruction funds stolen; the money is not going to the right places. The money is being stolen in order for the industrial parks to be in the agribusiness and the mining and take out lands from the people. So what are people supposed to do? Even the middle class is leaving. And around 2016, gangs became exponentially powerful. And we're talking about people who are poor, unemployed, somehow having military grade guns and machines. Who's giving guns to them? And we know that the U.S. is the largest producer of arms in the region, so there may not be proof. But if you use logic reduction, you can start seeing some connections. The gangs are controlling the territories. The police can't even go there. When you look at the numbers of the elections, Port-Au-Prince voted in greater numbers for this party. And you have a correlation between the gangs gaining strength and controlling this territory, controlling what people and who people vote for. And then this party being able to win another round. By 2018, when the protests started since July, the first shutdown and the massive protest in November, 70 people were massacred in the middle of the day, butchered, chopped up, women raped. The government said nothing. So of course they're leaving. So this party is directly responsible for this crisis. So there are connections directly at what's happening in Haiti and this particular party that the U.S. continues to support, no matter all the human rights violations reports that have been put out. They continue to claim that somehow this is democracy.
Which are the perspectives for the people who are already staying in Mexico and for the people staying in Haiti?
It's not that the Mexican state is any more favorable to Haitians than the U.S. state. In Haiti, there are efforts happening, not revolutionary efforts, but they are promising in order to bring some amount of democracy or some amount of room for people to breathe and live. There's a commission to find the Haitian solution to the Haitian crisis that was formed earlier this year and with the assassination, they tried very quickly to keep doing the work. And it's one of the first efforts we see in a long time of coming together all progressive parties, different sectors of the population. It's an effort to try to really create a national dialogue and to replace the power structure. Of course, it's hard to do that, to take over power without guns. They are in the process of collecting signatures from different civil society organizations, grassroots organizations. That's something that's hopeful in this moment. There are efforts that people are doing to shift this moment.
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