President Donald Trump has come under intense criticism for comments he made about black and Latino countries, particularly those made about Haiti and its immigrants during a meeting with a group of senators on Thursday discussing bipartisan solutions for immigration reform.
According to a report from the Washington Post, Trump became frustrated when lawmakers brought up immigration protections for people from Haiti, El Salvador, and certain African countries during the meeting. Specifically, however, he reportedly asked, “Why do we need more Haitians?” in the immigration program. “Get them out.”
He is reported to have also said, “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” Trump also suggested that the US should instead aim to bring in more immigrants from countries like Norway.
The comments kicked off a wave of criticism, with many observers pointing out this was another entry for the president’s history of racist and xenophobic remarks. But most glaringly, it seemed Trump was overlooking the role American policy has played in creating the very conditions he was deriding.
I know Trump doesn't care or care to know about America's history in Haiti, but for anyone listening to his shithole remarks, don't forget the US OCCUPIED Haiti for 19 years. And many immigrants come here bc of America's aggressive foreign policy blunders.— Ahmed Shihab-Eldin (@ASE) January 12, 2018
Taxi driver: When are Americans going to start talking about the foreign policies their leaders backed that helped these places become shithole countries?— Eugene Scott (@Eugene_Scott) January 12, 2018
Many of the countries Trump criticized have been affected by US foreign policy
As writer Nicole Chavez detailed Friday for CNN, the US government has long been active in Haiti’s politics. When the slaves in the country fought for independence in the late 18th century, the US provided aid to the French colonists in an effort to stop the rebellion, fearful that the revolt would spread to the US. Even when Haiti gained independence in 1804, it took the US until 1862 to recognize it as an independent nation, subjecting the country to an economic embargo in the intervening years.
In 1915, after the assassination or removal of several Haitian leaders, US President Woodrow Wilson sent troops to Haiti for a military occupation that did not end until 1934, and saw the deaths of thousands of Haitians. During that time, the US controlled parts of the country’s government, including its customs and tax apparatus.
The US also supported the regime of Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier, who oversaw a reign of terror that fueled a mass exodus from the island nation. And, as Nathalie Baptiste notes for Mother Jones, during the same time that “Baby Doc” Duvalier was in power, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 1983 “announced the four Hs, four groups that were at high risk for AIDS: homosexuals, hemophiliacs, heroin users, and Haitians.”
The US military returned to the country in 1994 following a military coup that forced out the country’s first democratically elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Chavez writes for CNN:
Then-President Bill Clinton sent a delegation in 1994 that reached a peace deal and restored Haiti’s president Jean-Bertrand Aristide to power.
By then, thousands of Haitians tried to flee to the United States by attempting the 600-mile passage to Florida in small, overcrowded boats just to be forced back into the country.
It wouldn’t be the last time that American troops would set foot in the country.
In 2004, violence and looting spread through Haiti as rebels opposed the re-election of Aristide.
In hopes of ending the bloody rebellion, US officials joined representatives from several countries in an effort that led to peace in Haiti. The US was so involved that when Aristide resigned, he was taken to the Central African Republic aboard a US military plane.
Haiti has remained rocked by political turmoil in the years since, and was further thrown into disruption after a devastating 2010 earthquake, which took place eight years ago to the day on Friday. In recent years, the US-Haiti relationship has been defined by the former’s providing of post-earthquake humanitarian immigration protections for Haitian nationals. In 2010, the US gave the country a place in its Temporary Protected Status program, a form of humanitarian relief offered to nationals of countries struggling with the aftermath of war, natural disasters, or other humanitarian crises.
Haiti has also come to rely on money from the US in the form of not only humanitarian aid, but also funds sent from Haitian immigrants and citizens back to those living on the island nation. But despite this, and even as these nationals have used the past several years to build a life in the US, the Trump administration has moved to revoke these protections, announcing in November that some 59,000 Haitians would no longer be covered by TPS as of July 2019. Meanwhile, Haiti, due to poor economic conditions and a cholera outbreak brought on by a United Nations peacekeeping force in the country, has continued to see a steady stream of migration out of the country.