The Haitian Diaspora

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On Friday, former Bush adviser Elliott Abrams took to the Washington Post op-ed page to urge the international community to open its doors to a “Haitian diaspora.” Mass emigration could help stabilize the earthquake-ravaged country, Abrams argued. But conservative commentors bred on NIMBY fervor have responded to Abrams’ piece with racist quips (blacks in the US already commit rape, assault and murder at a per capita rate that is over 7 times that of non-blacks) and worries about the cost of immigration (The democrats are so stupid. Real unemployment is over 20%). All this despite the fact that Abrams is a dyed-in-the-wool conservative who served under Reagan and Bush. The full column is available here. Here are the highlights:

“Rebuilding” and “recovery” would merely take Haiti, this hemisphere’s poorest country, back to where it stood before the Jan. 12 earthquake. Surely, our goal is to do better[!!!] We must increase aid but also allow Haitians to help themselves, and there is no way they can do that sitting in a devastated nation. A substantial number of Haitians must be allowed to move to richer countries—including ours.

Haiti has approximately 9 million citizens, and 1 million to 2 million Haitians live outside their country. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, half a million people born in Haiti live in the United States, and estimates put several hundred thousand in Canada and as many as 100,000 in France. Those migrants send home $1.9 billion in remittances—double the official aid flows and equal to 30 percent of Haiti’s gross domestic product.

A larger Haitian diaspora would be a far better base for the country’s economic future than aid pledges that may or may not be met. If several hundred thousand more Haitians were able to migrate, those Dominican, Honduran or Salvadoran numbers suggest that remittances to Haiti would give its economy a huge and continuing jolt.

This would require Canada, France and the United States—the First World countries with the largest Haitian diaspora communities—to adopt a different and more liberal immigration policy toward Haiti. Canada has already stepped up, expediting immigration applications from Haitians with family members living there. Canada’s immigration minister noted that “we anticipate there will be a number of new applications, which we will treat on a priority basis.”

Cue the relief. Abrams offers a proposal for rebuilding Haiti that isn’t all awash in an obstacle course of dehumanizing logisitics. Yes, the U.S. economy is mired in debt and unemployment is high, but people are dying and are in need of international help. Let the Haitians come.

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THE TRUTH...

is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

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