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Reason and Racism: A Tale of Two Floridas

March 07, 2009 - Posted by Douglas Rivlin


We call your attention to two newspaper articles in Florida this week.  One is an editorial that ran March 6 in the Fort Myers News-Press arguing forcefully for immigration reform.  The other is a news item from March 5 in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel of Fort Lauderdale about the continuation of Haitian deportations.  They paint an interesting picture in contrasts.


The News-Press editorial charts a middle ground, calling for an enforcement-centric approach to immigration, but also calling on its readers to contact Members of Congress to demand immigration reform.


“We have failed to adopt sensible, enforceable rules for admitting newcomers to what we proudly call a nation of immigrants.


We need reform because we need immigrants - legal immigrants with rights and hopeful futures, admitted under a fair system, energetically enforced for the sake of American security and sovereignty. But we need to admit our hypocrisy.


We rightly insist that immigrants and employers obey the laws, but we still do not adequately enforce those laws.


Border security has improved but is still far from tight. Workplace raids have increased, but employers have not been held seriously accountable for hiring illegal workers.


Too many Americans, including consumers, benefit from the illegal employment of people from impoverished countries willing to work in the shadows for low wages.”


If you read the whole piece, you can see the editorial board is really struggling with this issue.  They repeat myths like “we make illegal immigration attractive with a no-questions-asked policy on health care, education, food stamps and other benefits.” Umm, immigrants in the country illegally haven’t been eligible for food stamps or most benefits beyond K-12 education and emergency medical care for more than a decade, and the unintended consequences of too many questions create red tape that makes some U.S. citizens ineligible for these services in the process.


And the editorial makes a nod towards “enforcement-first,” an approach that hasn’t been working for two decades and which is hard to distinguish from mass-expulsion.  But the thrust of the editorial is that it is time for the American people to demand reform that includes a sensible legal immigration system, a way for most of the people here to become legal, and enforcement to make sure everyone is playing by the new set of enforceable rules.


“Now is a good time for a new administration to renew the attempt to fix this broken system. Experience suggests that Obama will have to put enforcement first.  But liberalization is essential, too.


Urge our leaders in Washington to act.”

Let's get honest about immigration, March 6, 2009



Over on the Atlantic/Caribbean coast in Fort Lauderdale, in the Miami Metroplex, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel ran a short news piece on deportations to Haiti. 


“Days after President Barack Obama’s inauguration, advocates wrote to him and the new head of the Department of Homeland Security, asking that they stop deporting undocumented Haitians and allow those already here to stay legally.


The answer arrived Tuesday: No, for now.


“At this time, DHS intends to continue to coordinate the removal of Haitian nationals to Haiti,” wrote Susan Cullen, director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Office of Policy and Planning.”

U.S. will continue to deport Haitians, March 5, 2009


It is unfortunate that the Department of Homeland Security does not see fit to extend Temporary Protected Status to Haitian nationals given the economic conditions and natural disasters that have devastated that Caribbean nation.  It is also, unfortunately, nothing new given America’s approach to Haitian immigrants over the years, despite the best efforts of advocates and Congressional leaders like Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL).


However, the reaction unleashed on the message board of the Sun-Sentinel is not just unfortunate, it is startling.  Let’s be clear, I don’t think most people troubled by legal and illegal immigration are racists, however, many of the most vocal anti-immigration advocates surely are.  And when the immigrants in question are black, Katie bar the door!


The article quotes Randy McGrorty, chief executive officer of Catholic Charities Legal Services in Miami, about his impressions of the Haitians in his community:


They're bright people. They're fair people…I remain optimistic the policy will change once they understand the need for change.


Which elicited this comment in the paper’s comment board from a chatter subtly named “Deport Them” of Miami:


Dude, what are you smoking???? All the haitians that I've come across, which is alot, are morons. They have no brains. It's like they left it at haiti or something. They are rude, inconciderate, selfish, and nasty people. They take dead peoples names and make it their own so they can continue to live here illegally. There's a reason why their country is in hell, and they are the reason for it. Good people, my behind.


A chatter named “Common Sense” adds:


Haitians are not fit for a Western civilized culture. Anyone who has been around them knows and understands what i'am saying.  This is not a racist comment just fact!

Sun Sentinel Forum Board


Here are a few otherschoice additions:


“Uncle Tom” of Lakeland: get those useless pieces of garbage out of our country. they aren't even here legally. it's a no brainer. heck, get rid of ALL the haitians and this state of ours will be drastically improved. the only thing they can do efficiently is spread AIDS and speak that monkey talk. they are more like primates than human. animals. the best thing for haitai is drop a bomb on it. soul less animals.


“Flagrante Delicto” who chats via AOL: What do you expect from a country where the majority don't even have a 6th grade education? They are lucky enough to get to ride in the back of a dump truck, let alone drive it.


“Reality” of Miami (responding to another’s comments): Tina, you are either Haitian or have never experienced Haitians destroying your life. They are destroying the quality of life in South Florida. They are dirty, uneducated, violent and poor. Why should we let them be here and suck our system as they commit crime. We don't want them in our neighborhoods anymore. If you love them so much, invite them to stay at your house!


And if you are not Haitian and feel left out of this hate festival:


“Kumar” of Free Soil, Michigan: The Miami Cubans are racists with over-inflated senses of self-worth. The rest of this country wishes they would all float back to Havana.


“Super Gator” of Miami: Not saying Cubans or Haitians are pieces of cake, most are actually pieces of something else, but I think if we're going to deport anybody, I think we should deport Muslims/Arabs/anything in between. Send 'em all back on one large magic carpet.


My, my my.  Granted, people say some crazy stuff on newspaper chat boards, but when people think they are essentially anonymous, they also speak their minds.  When Lou Dobbs, Mark Krikorian, Willard T. Fair, or any of the other leaders of the opposition to immigration reform speak, we should ask them how they can stand shoulder to shoulder with the people making these comments and still sleep at night.


Peel back the layers of the anti-immigration onion and you find a lot of bitterness, and like an onion, it will make you cry.



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