It was difficult for Mathilde Time and Roland Victor to watch the news Tuesday. That’s because the images of Haitians jumping from a boat and scrambling to shore will be something they’ll never get used to.
It’s nothing new. For years, as a result of political and economic unrest in Haiti, many have opted to make a desperate attempt to start anew in the “land of the free.”
But most of the Haitians were immediately detained, leaving Time and Victor, both former Club Creole presidents and USF alumni, to question if the United States is as much a melting pot as it is made out to be.
For those who weren’t aware of the Haitian refugee plight, Tuesday’s nationally covered mass exodus attempt in Miami, Time said, should open their eyes.
“Now it’s in your face, and everyone can see the injustice,” she said.
Club Creole will try to send a message to President George W. Bush Saturday when he visits the Sun Dome for a fundraiser for brother and Florida governor, Jeb Bush.
The club, along with other student groups on campus, is hoping to get within earshot of Bush.
American policy toward Haitian refugees is much different from the treatment of other refugees. For instance, once Cuban refugees reach land, they have three days to appeal for asylum to the government. Haitians are detained.
This double standard and a lack of foreign aid from the United States creates a vicious catch-22, Time says. The United States is blocking the aid Haiti needs so its masses can gradually be unhanded from the grasp of poverty, and then, when poor Haitians show up on American shores, they are being turned away.
It’s ironic, Time says, but many Haitian establishments only take American money.
Victor says he doesn’t expect the U.S. government to allow every Haitian into the country, but he thinks all refugees should be equally treated.
“We’re not saying that they should open the flood gates,” Victor said. “Just give (the Haitian refugees) a fair chance to be heard.”
And he hopes his chance to be heard by the president Saturday will be successful. Victor said Bush only needs to realize the magnanimity of his cause to be inspired to make change.
“I think the president has a heart, and when he takes a moment to think about it, he will do something,” Victor said.
Another problem hurting Haitians is the American perception of them, Time said. She objects to Immigration and Naturalization Service officials wearing rubber gloves while dealing with the refugees. It makes Americans who watch the news think Haitians are less than human.
“We may come from a poor country,” Time said. “But we’re not animals.”
Students will gather in a designated rallying area outside the Sun Dome at about 5 p.m. Saturday, Victor said.
Club Creole has also developed a petition to bring about change in America’s policy toward Haiti, and Victor said it is being circulated at more than 10 Florida universities.