There are hundred of thousands of us out there, Haitian citizens, who hold a permanent resident card or more commonly known as an Alien card in the United States of America. Lately, I have been thinking about our legal status. I have been thinking about our fundamental rights as citizens of a poor nation in a wealthy country.
American citizens are protected by their constitution. This decade, the United States has deported more Haitians than ever before. Sometimes, they have deported people who have no memory of Haiti whatsoever. On the other hand, we hear about Haitian officials who are asking to halt this practice. The Haitian leaders have said that Haiti is not ready to receive its own citizens. It is for those reasons that I am worry about our legal status as foreigners in the United States.
There are some basic human rights that we have regardless of where we live. For many of us, we have made a personal choice to hold on to our native nationality, and in the process we took the risk of not being protected by neither our native constitution nor that of our host country. In fairness that should not be the case.
Haiti is a country where the rules of law mean very little to people. We have books that contain the laws, but we don’t have fair-minded people to apply them. Our leaders take greater pride in protecting their own power and interests instead of those they represent. Haiti is a failed state not simply because it is corrupted, but mainly because it cannot protect the rights of its citizens.
The Haitian diaspora dearly wants to take part in the development of Haiti, but often they find that they have no rights in their own country. For example, our country punishes us for going overseas in the search of a better life for ourselves and our family. Once you leave Haiti for foreign lands, you basically can not partake in any elections. They do not have a system that allows Haitians living outside of Haiti to express their primary civic duty, which is the right to vote. As they say in America, voting is your voice; therefore Haitians who holds an alien card has no voice, neither in America nor in their own country. If we don’t have a voice, then who is speaking for us?
I have been tormented by the idea that by accepting to become a permanent resident in the United States, we are in essence forfeiting our basic fundamental rights. I have never had the chance to vote in my life. I left Haiti before I could vote, and as a non-US citizen, I am not eligible to vote. I feel like we have no constitutional protection. The Bill of Rights in America really does not pertain to alien card holders, and given the predicament that Haiti finds itself even Haitians living in Haiti has no rights, let alone us, expatriate.
We are still somebody. We still belong to a nation. We believe we are still citizens of our country, but does our country count us as its own. I am not a legal scholar, but on the surface, it looks as if we are a bunch of abandoned children.
It seems that there is two Haiti, one for those still living in Haiti, and one for us the diaspora. The laws that apply for the people at home seem to have no practical meaning for us outside of the country and vice-versa. I do not even want to debate the social prejudice that exists between the two fractions, but it is clear to me that if Haiti is going to move forward, there must be a homogenization of all Haitian citizens regardless of where they reside.
A country that is in such a desperate need of repair can not be practicing the ideology of exclusion. After enjoying Barack Obama’s victory for President of the United States, it suddenly hit me that as talented as Obama is, if he were born in Haiti from a foreign father and a native mother, he would not be eligible to become president in Haiti. I ask myself, how many Haitian Obamas that we are excluding from the political process.
Before Michelle Duvivier Pierre-Louis was approved as Prime Minister, the Haitian parliament rejected two well-qualified individuals, and one of them was rejected on the basis that he was not able to provide proof that his great-grandparents were born in Haiti. What a ridiculous concept, for a country as disorganized as Haiti. Many people born around the same time as me could have a hard time generating a birth certificate from the national Archives, let alone finding the records for someone born before 1900.
It is this kind of gimmick that we need to get rid of in our society. There are important issues to take care of. As much as I don’t support the dual citizenship for Haitians, I definitely do not share the ideas that we can deny Haitians born from foreign parents full citizenship rights. If you are born in Haiti, it should be enough for you to become all that you can be in your native country, regardless of your residency status. If the Haitian State wants to deny us of our rights because we migrated overseas for a better life, then they should live up to their responsibilities, and create decent conditions for all Haitians; maybe then we won’t have to emigrate overseas, and in the process lose our identity, and our basic rights.