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The Tribune: Letter about “Illegal Haitians” – a loss of sense or a noble cause?

February 2, 2010

The position of Haitian-Bahamian Solidarity got some solid publicity today with the following letter to the editor:

EDITOR, The Tribune.

One cannot help but to observe how Dr Nicolette Bethel is on facebook, and other places all draped in the Haitian flag while advocating for illegal Haitian immigrants to come to our shores. I’m trying hard to understand her logic in light of the enormous social burden that illegal immigration presently poses on our economy today, and our nation’s decades of unsuccessful efforts to control the situation.

I was always under the impression that Dr Bethel is a Bahamian, and aware of our own problems here at home when it comes to keeping Bahamians’ heads above water in these challenging economic times.

Our people are unemployed in vast numbers, and thousands of single Bahamian mothers, and two parent families are having a very hard time providing food for their small children, shelter, clean clothing and other essentials. Dr Bethel is obviously unaware about the plight of Bahamians who are extremely stressed in their quest to survive daily.

She is noticeably out of touch with the colossal struggle of poor Bahamians, and appears confused about her loyalty to her country and compatriots; so much so – that she is fully clad in the Haitian flag – while advocating for more Haitians to come to The Bahamas in mass while foreigners rescue Haiti out of the pit of catastrophe.

Haiti’s population is about thirty times that of The Bahamas’. I would like for Dr Bethel to tell us how many millions of Haitians we should house in our land of about 400,000 Bahamians — while Haiti stabilised from the recent devastating quake and outsiders toil relentlessly — and burn the midnight oil to rescue Haiti?

Many of us feel for Haiti and the Haitian people, but that doesn’t mean that we should lose our senses in addressing the question of how we could help.

So, while Dr Bethel’s intention may be noble – she has allowed the recent calamity in Haiti to cloud her good judgment – in my humble opinion.



February 1, 2010.

via The Tribune.

Perhaps the most striking thing about this response is the persistent interchangeability of the terms  “the Haitian people” and “illegal immigrants”. What Haitian-Bahamian Solidarity is proposing is to offer temporary status to Haitian immigrants already in the country and to decriminalize the arrival in The Bahamas by refugees from Port-au-Prince, thereby rendering those immigrants legal. What is clear, though, is that for some of us, “Haitian” is not a nationality, but an automatic status. In other words, “Haitian” = “illegal immigrant”.

This is an illustration of why it is so important for us to work to change the way in which we think and talk about our nearest neighbours. Not all Haitians are immigrants, illegal or otherwise. Not all Haitian immigrants in The Bahamas are illegal. Some Haitians are also Bahamians (and vice versa). Not to recognize these distinctions is to perpetuate a lie.

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