The forced emigration of almost 60,000 Haitians triggered by the termination of temporary protected status for Haitian earthquake victims will be judged by history with infamy, and now we know why.
Over the weekend, the New York Times reported that the president thinks that all Haitians have AIDS. This absolutely false and absurd belief is based upon stigmatization and prejudice that first surfaced in the early days of the AIDS epidemic and has been thoroughly de-bunked my science. Like the Native Americans forced to the trail of tears by the racial attitudes of the Andrew Jackson administration, these Haitians threatened with deportation are also innocents, arriving here after the 2010 earthquake killed their loved ones and destroyed their homes, jobs and social infrastructure. South Florida’s humanitarian response to their plight was arguably our finest hour.
Now, the Trump administration wants to send them back, cynically asking us to willingly suspend disbelief that Haiti now has the capacity to accept them. Harbor no illusions. Innocents will die. Children, the frail and the elderly will could die of pneumonia.
All émigrés will be at risk for mosquito-borne illnesses, such as malaria and dengue. There will also be incalculable suffering. Families will be ripped apart. Schooling will at best be interrupted.Victims will return to nothing remaining of their past lives. The Times reporting suggests, prejudice against Haitian-Americans already in the U.S. will be re-ignited and that legal immigration from Haiti will be stifled.
It is encouraging to see leaders from the entire political spectrum raise their voices in protest. But those who hunger for justice for Haiti's earthquake victims must also call for a path to permanent residency status as well as a compassionate and fair immigration policy for Haitians and Haitian- Americans– instead of a new trail of tears and death, a path toward productive lives in this country.
Arthur M. Fournier, MD
University of Miami Miller
School of Medicine, Miami