Americans are decent, generous, Christian people who understandably want to help others. But our desire to help must be tempered by our responsibility to our countrymen to maintain an orderly, safe, and prosperous country. It also must be tempered by some recognition that Haiti’s bad circumstances are not caused by the earthquake, but rather are exacerbated by the earthquake; the conditions that made the earthquake so bad stem from the characteristics of the Haitian people and the unique characteristics of Hatian society. Even David Brooks recognizes this obvious fact. So I was a little chagrined to learn that Florida may be taking in several hundred thousand “evaucees” from Haiti, most of whom I imagine will never leave.
A very similar, though less dramatic, experiment took place in Houston, Texas in 2005, where Bill White, our mayor and basic centrist liberal, extended the red carpet to New Orleans’ many Katrina refugees. It was a noble gesture, and Houston responded quite well logistically, but longer-term it’s a gesture for which the poor and working class Houstonians had to bear the brunt of the cost. Homicide went up 28%. Crime in general increased. Many refugees remained stuck in a cycle of dependency that they had begun as welfare cases in New Orleans. Most Houstonians had ambivalent or negative feelings about the Katrina refugees in the end.
There is no reason to think the outcome will be different in the case of the many Haitian refugees we may soon be taking in. Indeed, because of language barriers and an even more corruption-ridden antecedent in Haiti, it will probably be worse. The refugees won’t live in the fanciest neighborhoods, but rather in poor and working class apartment complexes on government subsidies. Haitian gangs, Haitian attitudes about crime and corruption, and Haitian disrespect for law and order will almost certainly follow in their wake, as they have followed those Haitian immigrants already here in Florida.
This is not a tough call. There is good reason to be helping Haitians in Haiti. They’re in our hemisphere. We have the resources to help. It’s part and parcel of a Western Hemisphere oriented foreign policy. But there is no reason to take in massive numbers of Haitians into our country in order to extend that help. Such a refugee policy will hurt vulnerable and poor Americans–white and black–in order for the leadership classes to feel good for a day or a week until they move on to some other pet cause. Charity does not require that we endanger ourselves and hurt third parties to whom we have responsibilities and ties of citizenship.
We no more have to take these forlorn Haitians into our homeland to show our compassion than we have to take real life, often self-destructive, homeless people into our real life homes. But that’s what Obama and company want Florida to do for Haiti: a gesture stemming from a perfect storm of liberal compassion, the opportunity to show a “lack of racism,” indifference to America’s working class, and the cultivation of a political constituency through specialized immigration policy. This is going to be bad and especially bad for Florida.