Inter-Actualités Magazine, Special Report on “Boat People,” May 1980


Download: Inter-Actualités Magazine, Emisyon Spesyal “Boat People”, me 1980


Jean Dominique and Michèle Montas report from Miami, on the administrative structures and state obstacles facing Haitian refugees who are trying to get political asylum in the United States. As a record number of Haitians flee Haiti for the US, the Bahamas, and other countries – an average of 200 people per week – the question of the rights of the so-called “boat people” and the approximately 30,000 undocumented Haitians in Florida is the subject of political debate in the United States. While Cubans fleeing Communism are considered political refugees by the federal government and granted asylum and various forms of aid (food assistance, work permit), Haitians are considered economic refugees and not granted the same protections or rights. Politicians and civil rights activists in the US, including Jesse Jackson, several members of the Congressional Black Caucus, and Democratic legislators, claim that this is a political façade for institutionalized racism, and are pressuring the Carter administration and Congress to change the laws regarding the treatment of Haitian refugees. Dominique and Montas speak to the deputy district director of the INS, who denies that Haitian and Cuban refugees are treated differently and claims that the State Department has given them no evidence that Haitian refugees face persecution if they return to Haiti; staff members of the Haitian Refugee Center in Miami, who argue that in the case of Haitian refugees, the economic cannot be separated from the political; and lawyer Ira Kurzban, who says that the State Department and INS have made it virtually impossible for Haitian refugees to present their claims for political asylum, and in so doing, have violated several federal statutes, the US Constitution, and international law. Dominique concludes by speaking of the courage, fear, and silent determination of the Haitian refugees: “these are our brothers, and we are all responsible.”