How race and identity are shaping politics, policy and power.
How race and identity are shaping politics, policy and power.
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By JOSEPH GEDEON
11/04/2022 02:50 PM EDT
With help from Ella Creamer, Rishika Dugyala and Jesse Naranjo
POLITICO illustration/Photo by Getty Images for Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights
Hello, Recast habibis! This is Joseph Gedeon, and I’m guest hosting today. The midterms are less than a week away and power in Congress is up for grabs. But before we let you go for the weekend, we need to talk about Haiti.
By all accounts, the situation in Haiti has taken a turn for the worse. Much, much worse.
Political, economic and daily life in the Caribbean country is now spinning out of control, with the United Nations this week saying children in Haiti are facing a “triple threat” of cholera, malnutrition and violence. Haitian children haven’t been able to attend school since the start of the academic year. Fuel and food shortages have skyrocketed, and demonstrations against Haitian leader Ariel Henry, who was not elected, have continued to mount.
Today, Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced that Haitian Senate President Joseph Lambert has been barred from entering the United States “for his involvement in significant corruption and a gross violation of human rights.”
As a result of the crisis, a record number of Haitian migrants are taking to the sea to seek safety, Haitian Bridge Alliance president Guerline Jozef tells The Recast.
People run after clashes erupted during a protest against fuel price hikes and to demand that Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry step down, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Friday, Sept. 16, 2022. | Odelyn Joseph/AP Photo
This all comes a year after a catastrophic summer for the island nation, beset by a deadly earthquake that killed thousands a mere month after Haitian President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated.
Yet the slow approach to international aid has confounded both Haitian and human rights activists. Direct aid to Haiti from the United States has been limited, mainly confined to arming the Haitian police and weighing potential military intervention. On Monday, more than 60 human rights organizations signed a letter to the White House expressing “profound concern about the proposed deployment of military force to Haiti.”
Meanwhile, NBC News reports that the Biden administration is considering sending Haitian migrants to Guantanamo Bay, a proposal advocates argue is discriminatory and violates migrants’ right to seek asylum. It’s also a move with echoes of the past: Haitian migrants have been detained there before.
The State Department did not confirm or deny it was considering diverting Haitian migrants to Guantanamo. In an emailed statement, a State Department spokesperson told The Recast, “The United States remains a steadfast partner to Haiti, and the Biden- Harris Administration remains committed to supporting the Haitian people during this difficult time.”
The U.S.-Haiti relationship has always been fraught — and Haitian human rights advocates are leery about the prospect of U.S. aid and intervention. Many still view the U.S. through the lens of the past, Jozef says. To them, this is still the same country that invaded and occupied the island for nearly 20 years after President Jean Vilbrun Guillaume Sam was assassinated in 1915.
Aid worker Tiffany Burrow, left, and Guerline Jozef with the Haitian Bridge Alliance hold a 6-day-old baby outside the Val Verde Humanitarian Border Coalition in Del Rio, Texas, on Saturday, Sept. 18th, 2021. | Sarah Blake Morgan/AP Photo
The Haitian-born Jozef, a nominee on The Recast’s inaugural Power List, co-founded the San Diego-based Haitian Bridge Alliance in 2015, the only Black-led organization working with people from Haiti, the Caribbean and African countries coming to the U.S.-Mexico border in search of asylum. The group provides migrants with legal support, protection and social services while advocating for a change in immigration policy.
“We look into the intersection between immigration, race and politics in the United States,” she says.
Jozef, who used to work in the audio-visual field, found her calling seven years ago when she learned a group of Haitians were seeking asylum at the southern border. Last year, when thousands of her compatriots reached the U.S.-Mexico border, only to be deported back home, she worked long hours to provide them with much-needed aid. Later that year, when she won the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award, she held her ceremony at the same border where she began her advocacy.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
THE RECAST: Can you tell us a little bit about the situation coming out of Haiti right now?
JOZEF: Honestly, Haiti is an abyss with extreme political turmoil and violence due to the insecurity. Haiti is in a space where we never thought it would be. Cholera is once again on the rise, no access to potable water, school has not opened this year. Most hospitals have closed in the country. The country is locked from inside to the point where we aren’t even able to reach people who are in extreme dire conditions. This is the worst it has been in a very long time.
THE RECAST: So Haitians aren’t safe in their country, and they’re not having a safe journey to stability either.
JOZEF: Absolutely. When I ask people why they make the journey knowing the risks, they all say that “we at least have hope. If we make it, we can survive and be protected. We can ask for asylum because the alternative is staying in Haiti and dying.” So we’re seeing people literally risk everything they have, their very lives, knowing the possibility of them dying on the way at sea is really high. They still see it as a better solution than what they are dealing with right now in Haiti. Unfortunately, when they are intercepted at sea they are returned to Haiti.
A youth suffering from cholera symptoms is helped upon arrival at a clinic run by Doctors Without Borders in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Thursday, Oct. 27, 2022. | Ramon Espinosa/AP Photo
THE RECAST: So how did we get here?
JOZEF: As you know, Haiti is the first and only country that was born out of slavery. We’re the enslaved people that were brought from Africa to the island. We voted, fought and won independence and created a new nation, a new idea, a new language and a new world.
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And of course that was unacceptable to the United States, to France, to England, because at the time, they were afraid that if other enslaved people found out what happened, they too would revolt and push for their own freedom and liberation.
So the United States itself decided to not recognize Haiti as a free country until 60 years after Haitian independence for fear that enslaved Black people in the United States will push for freedom as well. So they wanted to make sure that the enslaved Black people in the U.S. didn’t know about Haiti. And so therefore, they did everything that they could to destroy Haiti as a country. Unless we understand that we will not understand how we got to where we are today.
Haitian migrants wade through a river while crossing the Darien Gap from Colombia into Panama hoping to reach the U.S., Saturday, Oct. 15, 2022. | Fernando Vergara/AP Photo
After independence, Haiti was forced to pay France over $200 billion in current value for lost wages of enslaved people. Haiti spent over 100 years paying for that. In addition to that, the United States invaded Haiti in 1914, for over 20 years, taking everything that was left, including the gold, including the money, including everything, and changing the constitution to benefit the United States. That brings us to where we are today, because the majority of the issues that are happening in Haiti right now are directly connected with foreign policies in the cocoa group that includes the United States, Canada, France, Spain and others, that continues to dismantle Haiti’s political system and Haiti’s prosperity.
THE RECAST: There’s a lot to unpack here. What does that mean for current aid to Haiti? What should the U.S. and other foreign powers do to help Haiti?
JOZEF: What the Haitians are asking for is a Haitian-led solution, which means they’re not saying they don’t need help. They are saying they are asking for the international community to stop hand-picking whomever they want as president to govern the country, and also stop meddling in the affairs of Haiti to allow them to govern themselves. However, at the same time, they need humanitarian support. They need to be able to get the support that they need to create sustainable infrastructure to be able to create schools, hospitals, roads and rebuild agriculture that has been destroyed by the United States.
THE RECAST: Are you saying the U.S. should reconsider supporting Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry?
JOZEF: Yes. Unfortunately, after the assassination of the president, they have not been able to create a sustainable ecosystem. At this point, Ariel Henry is the president and the vice president. He is the Supreme Court and he is Congress. We do not have any one of those branches operational in Haiti right now. So therefore, the people of Haiti are asking for him to leave so that they can find a better person to lead them into the next phase where they can actually have elections and have a proper government.
THE RECAST: We’ve learned that the Biden administration is considering sending migrants to Guantanamo Bay. I know you work with people who are making the journey by sea. Tell us what you’ve been hearing from Haitians who have fled and what else should be done.
Guerline Jozef from Haitian Bridge Alliance speaks at a rally Oct. 13, 2021, in front of the U.S. Capitol. | Paul Morigi/Getty Images for Communities United for Status and Protection
JOZEF: We are seeing a rise of Haitians coming by sea, higher than we have seen in the last 30 years. And we are seeing people also at the U.S.-Mexico border, who have fled Haiti, some of them have fled Haiti before and some are fleeing now. So when I meet people, the first question I ask them is, “What are you doing here? Why are you here?” And they always answer that they don’t want to leave Haiti, they don’t want to leave home, because life in Haiti is always where people want to be. But because of extreme insecurity, because of this political violence, they cannot stay home.
So in May alone, we buried 11 [people] who took to the sea to come and ask for asylum in the United States. We have a letter that is going out to President [Joe] Biden asking him to provide protection for Haitians, especially those who are taking to sea, because the plan is to put them in Guantanamo Bay.
Church officials set up photos of the 11 Haitian women who died when the overloaded boat they were in capsized, at a church in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Wednesday, June 15, 2022. | Dánica Coto/AP Photo
Anyone who knows what happened in Guantanamo Bay to Haitians in the 1980s and 1990s knows we cannot allow that to repeat itself. So we are asking America and the world to join us in saying no to these cruel and inhumane conditions that they want to put Haitians in. And we are asking them to continue to support and welcome Haitians, just like they have welcomed the Ukrainians. We should welcome all people, regardless of race, ethnicity, background and country of origin.
It’s the final weekend before the midterms — and next week is bound to be… interesting. So before the craziness commences, here’s what we’ll be watching, reading and listening to this weekend:
Nicôle Lecky is the creative brains behind “Mood,” a six-episode portrait of sex work in the social media age, coming Sunday on BBC America.
Nicôle Lecky as Sasha in Season 1 of “Mood.” | Natalie Seery/BBC Studios/Bonafide Films
Don’t miss “Metaphor of the Floating Life” by Song Lin, an exploration of identity by a poet who lived in exile after being imprisoned for leading student demonstrations during the Tiananmen Square protests.
Jamil Jan Kochai reads and talks through Yiyun Li‘s haunting short fiction centered on loss, memory and storytelling.
George Lopez is back with a new sitcom — “Lopez vs. Lopez” — premiering tonight on NBC, and TikTok has a role to play.
Washington guitar icon Libba Cotten — known for her distinctive “Cotten picking” style — has been posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. You can catch her playing here.
The Bolivian film “Utama,” out today, follows a Quechua couple struggling to sustain themselves, their crops and their herd of llamas on a parched landscape.
Vulture music critic Craig Jenkins explores the intersection of music and realism in this moving tribute to Takeoff, the 28-year-old Migos star who was killed this week.
NoSo‘s velvety vocals are a quiet triumph in their Tiny Desk Concert.
Segue into the weekend with new bop “Simply The Best” from the Black Eyed Peas, Anitta and El Alfa.
TikTok of the Day No. 1: The Lupita dance
TikTok of the Day No. 2: Friday vibes
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