Sunday, January 24, 2010

I just watched a PBS special on the organizational failure across the board that compounded the destruction of Hurricane Katrina. It was awful to watch. One of the things that's been on my mind lately with the earthquake in Haiti is that I don't remember so much swift, federal aid going to New Orleans as is going to Haiti - and it's not like things are finished in New Orleans. There is still a lot of work to be done in there to make it livable and restore the lives of the people who lost their homes. This is, of course, not to say that we shouldn't be sending aid to the Haitians, I don't mean that at all.

The only reason I can think of for the fact that Haiti is getting more federal aid than New Orleans is that it makes the US look good to the rest of the world. I went to a teach-in on Friday evening about Haiti. There were five panelists from different backgrounds (sociology, history, law, etc.) who told us about  the history of Haiti (didn't know the US played such a big role in Haiti's current state of poverty) and about what's going on now. The man who taught in the law school told us about the U.S. immigration policy for Haiti: the international refugee protocols say that a nation cannot send refugees home if their lives are at risk there, as they are in case of Haitians trying to come into Florida. But they have to reach a certain point before they are being "returned" rather than prevented from coming, so the Coast Guard patrols the ocean and turns boats around before they can reach land.

Can you imagine being so desperate that you jump on whatever boat you can find and try to aim towards the U.S., only to meet a Coast Guard group that forces you to turn around? And the first aid that the U.S. sent to Haiti were military troops, to ensure that Haitians were not attempting to leave Haiti for the United States.

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