Guantanamizing Haiti: Imprisoning the Country All Over Again

Even with an influx of humanitarian aide and some debt relief, for many Haitians, the only hope of survival is leaving Haiti.

But the United States does not think so. After displaying some unusual good-will towards Haitian immigrants and orphans last week, the Obama Administration is now planning to house refugees fleeing Haiti in Guantanamo Bay, possibly until they can be sent back home.

The United States is also upping military presence in Haiti to 20,000 troops. Maybe President Obama is following the advice of the crass U.K. Immigration Minister Phil Woolas who stated last November that the presence of British soldiers in war-torn and ravaged Afghanistan helped to control immigration from that country to Britain.

The U.S. Navy and Coast Guard vessels now patrolling Haiti are not only there for food and water relief.  They are also around to ensure that Haitians don’t try to escape the disaster and come to the United States. With the United States taking over all Haitian airports and sea ports, the containment of Haiti is complete.

This is not a wild leap of imagination. Matt Kelley over at the Criminal Justice blog is already connecting the dots to how private immigrant prisons can benefit from Haiti’s misery. The United States has actually long detained immigrants with HIV and Haitian refugees in Guantanamo. Haiti is now shaping up as another long-term United States military occupation with up to 13,000 troops already in the country. And now, the Obama Administration is looking into criminalizing refugees from Haiti by capturing and sending them to Guantanamo, a full year after calling for the closure of the despicable facility that housed and tortured alleged terrorists. President Obama will effectively make the Guantanamo Bay occupation much bigger, replacing alleged terrorists with refugees. Coming full circle, Mr. President?

La Macha at VivirLatino aptly criticizes the militarization of humanitarian aide efforts underway for Haiti, which is at the heart of the problem. Treating human migration as a “national security project” since 9-11 has led us down this path. Guantanamizing Haitian refugees is the latest expansion of the migrant-military complex and part of the ongoing white liberal effort to “save humanity” by containing part of it.

The United States mainstream media has not been overly critical of this latest national security project. Mainstream media discourses on Haiti are seemingly limited to graphic images and how to help Haiti rather than what Haiti is owed, bearing a deafening silence about the long history of looting, raping, pillaging, and plundering of the country by imperial Western forces, especially the United States of America. It is by no mere coincidence or “natural disaster” that Haiti is the poorest country in the Americas. It was made poor by years of senseless debt, intervention, and the development of underdevelopment. Omitting these points from coverage of Haiti premises accepting Haitian refugees as “doing Haiti a favor” rather than doing the right thing for a country that the neo-liberal order has long terrorized.

The Obama Administration has done the least in halting deportations and granting temporary protected status to Haitian immigrants here. On the migration front, it can still do a lot more and allow more Haitians to enter the United States, accepting Haitian refugees without the threat of detention to Guantanamo Bay or private prisons.

Remember your words Mr. President. Do not forsake Haiti and imprison Haitians in another archipelago of detention, only to forget about them till the next “natural disaster” or international outcry.

Photo Credit: EPA

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