The Historic Haitian-American Diplomatic Relationship: A Principal Reason For the Exclusion of the Haitian Refugees
Richard Antoine Tabuteau
Thesis DT 3.5 2005 T338
xxii, 154 leaves; 28 cm.
A close study of the historic Haitian-American diplomatic relationship reveals that it had a principal affect on how the United States responded to Haitian Refugees. By the 1970’s, when noticeable numbers of Haitians were fleeing Haiti, the response of the United States had already been formed. Although it is likely that no written or cogently prepared policy existed to exclude Haitian refugees exactly when they began migrating to the United States, adverse attitudes towards Haitians already existed not only on the governmental level, but also throughout society because of sustained negative images and characterization of Haitian people by American government officials, scholars, and media since 1790. These images emerged not simply from racism, but also from diplomatic frustrations between the United States and Haiti in regard to America’s political, economic, and military interests throughout the nineteenth and twentieth century.
In addition to my central argument about the vital importance of the historical trajectory as a determining factor for the exclusion of Haitian refugees, I also contend that the United States rationale for their exclusion was highly flawed and truly baseless. United States government officials consistently argued that the Haitians were economic migrants, and therefore, not eligible for admission as refugees according to international law. This accusation was erroneous because ample evidence exists about the widespread human rights abuses that occurred in Haiti during the 1970’s and 1980’s. Moreover, it suggests that there is a sharp difference between the political and economic sphere in the administration of government. However, most scholars agree that politics and economics are intimately intertwined and blur on every level. This thesis argues that an economic refugee can still be afforded the protection of the United States as a signatory nation to the 1967 United Nations Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees if they are persecuted economically to further political objectives of repression.
Presently, most scholars on the subject have failed to recognize the nature and character of the historic Haiti-American diplomatic relationship as a factor that informed American refugee policy towards Haitians. The intention of this thesis is to affect the way people think, talk, and write about the Haitian refugee crisis during the 1970’s and 1980’s so that the diplomatic history finds parity with virulent racist immigration and refugee policies and vigilant Cold War imperatives. When Scholars fail to notice the nature of the Haitian-American relationship as a crucial factor concerning Haitian refugee exclusion, they effectively undercut the complexity of the policy. This in turn promotes a flawed interpretation of American policy formation against Haiti, which will always stem form past associations with the United States. Moreover, by not recognizing the significance of this history, scholars become limited in their ability to anticipate how the United States might respond to other crisis in or emanating from Haiti.