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U. S. Policy toward Haitian Boat People, 1972-93

Christopher Mitchell
The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science
Vol. 534, Strategies for Immigration Control: An International Comparison (Jul., 1994), pp. 69-80
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1048499
Page Count: 12
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U. S. Policy toward Haitian Boat People, 1972-93
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Abstract

In the early 1970s, Haitians began migrating by sea to south Florida without authorization. Influential economic and social elites in that region pressed for federal action to deter this population stream. Until 1981, arriving Haitian boat people were detained in Florida, and most were deported as rapidly as possible. Since 1981, the U. S. government has used the Coast Guard to intercept boats laden with Haitian migrants. Since May 1992, "interdicted" Haitian vessels have been escorted back to Haiti, without affording passengers an opportunity to request political asylum in the United States. Although this policy has aroused condemnation from many observers as inhumane and discriminatory, the U. S. government arguably has the administrative, legal, and political ability to uphold it. Political criticism of the interception policy has helped induce the U. S. government to act in favor of a democratic regime in Haiti. Such a political trend would undercut the argument that Haitian boat people are fleeing political persecution and would bolster the policy of repatriation. As both U. S. political leaders and the general public become more restrictionist, the policy of returning Haitian boat people may, unfortunately, come to seem normal rather than anomalous.

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