Following the devastating earthquake in Haiti, Mark Krikorian, director of the predictably anti-immigrant Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) surprisingly acknowledged that undocumented Haitians in the U.S. should be given Temporary Protected Status (TPS) which would allow them to work in the U.S. until conditions in Haiti improve. However, despite taking an unusual position, the rest of what CIS has had to say about Haiti over the past week fits right in line with the group’s ethnocentric nativist dogma.
CIS Fellow David North has attacked the idea of waiving TPS fees for Haitian “illegals” who are probably struggling to send every extra penny they have back home right now. Last week North suggested that Haitian refugees would be best culturally absorbed by other Caribbean countries and any refugees accepted by the U.S. should be directed to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, which according to North, “have never lifted a finger to help America to resettle refugees.”
Today, Krikorian is arguing against the U.S. taking in more refugees because “there are many countries poorer and more screwed-up than Haiti,” despite the fact that he is generally opposed to accepting any refugees from even the most “screwed-up” countries. However, Krikorian hit a new intellectual low yesterday when he suggested that the reason Haiti is “so screwed up” (though apparently not screwed up enough), is because it’s home to a “progress-resistant culture” that simply “wasn’t colonized long enough”:
My guess is that Haiti’s so screwed up because it wasn’t colonized long enough…But, unlike Jamaicans and Bajans and Guadeloupeans, et al., after experiencing the worst of tropical colonial slavery, the Haitians didn’t stick around long enough to benefit from it. (Haiti became independent in 1804.). And by benefit I mean develop a local culture significantly shaped by the more-advanced civilization of the colonizers.
In fact, Haiti’s comparatively short-lived colonial history might be the best thing the island had going for it. Haiti’s revolution inspired the fights for independence across Latin America and ushered in the end of slavery in the New World. Meanwhile, a never-ending sphere of Western influence and self-serving intervention probably offers a better explanation for why Haiti is as “screwed-up” as it is. Unlike the islands of Jamaica, Barbados, and Guadalupe, Haiti has long been the “poster case for the vicious circle of colonial and foreign intervention, poverty, violence and political instability.”
Ultimately, Krikorian’s assessment of what’s wrong with Haiti is based in the same perception of the relative cultural inferiority of non-Western nations that guides many of CIS’ immigration positions. In his book, Krikorian argues that modern-day immigration “weakens our common national identity, limits opportunities for upward mobility, threatens our security and sovereignty, strains resources for social programs, and disrupts middle-class norms of behavior.” Earlier this year, Krikorian admitted that he believes there isn’t enough pressure for “Anglo-conformity.”
Cross-posted at the Wonk Room.