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From: Max Blanchet <MaxBlanchet@worldnet.att.net>

Ambassade d 'Haïti 
Washington D.C. 

Gérard Alphonse Férère, Ph.D. 
Professor Emeritus, St. Joseph's University
August 27, 1999, Washington, D.C.

I.- Introduction: The Origin and Growth of the Haitian Diaspora

Originally, the Greek word Diaspora designated exclusively the Jewish 
populations scattered over the world after the Babylonian captivity. 
Today, its meaning has broadened, and it is employed to refer to any 
dispersal of people to foreign soils. In this latter context, we use it 
to identify the hundreds of thousands of Haitians living in many 
countries of the world. 

The Haitian Exodus began soon after rigged elections which put dictator 
François Duvalier in power in 1957. Fearing the rampant political 
repression and killings, thousands of people left the island and sought 
political asylum abroad. Subsequently, the continued repression and 
killings, compounded by the deterioration of the economy, compelled 
thousands more to flee. During the presidency of Jean-Claude Duvalier, 
we witnessed the massive departure of the so-called "Haitian boat 
people", mainly toward the shores of the United States. This later wave 
was responsible for the very significant growth in the demographics of 
the Haitian Diaspora during the 70s and the 80s. In 1984, French 
historian Jacques Barros estimated its population at about 800,000 or 
even 1,000,000. Although there has been no recent scientific survey, we 
can be sure that today's number surpasses the 1,000,000 mark, including 
a high percentage of intellectuals, professionals, technicians, skilled 
workers, etc. In the United States alone there must be more than 500,000 
Haitian émigrés. Among the other countries or regions with a high number 
of Haitian settlers, are the Bahamas, Canada, the Dominican Republic, 
France, French Guyana, Jamaica, and Martinique. In the Dominican 
Republic, there are about half a million individuals identified by the 
Dominican Government as Haitians, many of which are not recent arrivals, 
but actually native-born Dominicans, who are denied citizenship because 
they allegedly "look" Haitian. 

So well known is the saga of our "boat people" that there is no need to 
dwell upon it here. Let me instead bring to your attention a 
not-so-well-known page of Haitian-American history. At the beginning of 
the 19th Century, just a few years after the triumph of the Haitian 
Revolution, many Americans were given the opportunity to emigrate to 
Haiti under a program initiated and financed by its government. In June 
1824, when President Jean-Pierre Boyer announced the implementation of 
the program, the news was warmly received in many circles in the North 
of the United States. On August 23rd of the same year, the ship 
"Charlotte Gray" left Philadelphia with a group of 58 people organized 
by the renowned Bishop Richard Allen who, 30 years earlier, had to buy 
his freedom for 2000 continental dollars. Among the 28 people was the 
Bishop's own son, John who carried a letter from his father to President 
Boyer, in which the elder Allen wrote: 

My heart burns affectionately in acknowledging the kind offers you have 
made to these poor oppressed people here in the United States, by 
offering them an asylum where they can enjoy liberty and equality. 

The US Gazette, Philadelphia, August 24, 1824 

A week later, on September 2nd, 1824, 200 people organized by the 
"Loring Dewey Society for Promoting the Emigration of Free Persons of 
Colour to Haiti" left New York aboard the ship "DeWitt Clinton". On 
September 10, the ship "Strong" left Baltimore, and on September 24th, 
200 more people left from Philadelphia. It took less than a year for 
6000 Americans, including several white families, to immigrate to Haiti, 
and to be received with open arms thanks to the generosity of the 

II.- The Diaspora and Foreign Immigration Policies

The adoption by many countries of policies unfavorable to our émigrés 
has given rise to the creation of community and citizen groups including 
both Haitians and nationals dedicated to their protection and defense. 
In the United States for example, organizations like the National 
Coalition for Haitian Rights, formerly the National Coalition for 
Haitian Refugees in New York, the Coalition for Haitian Concerns in 
Philadelphia, the Washington Office on Haiti, the Haitian Refugee Center 
of Miami, etc., have been at the forefront of the struggle. But so far, 
all legislation voted by U.S. Congress, and measures taken by the 
Executive Branch have only offered short-term, temporary solutions to 
long-term problems, since emigration from Haiti -and other regions - 
toward the United States is bound to continue, until its causes are 
addressed. It is neither realistic nor fair to expect that America adopt 
an open-door policy. But in this country where the rule of law prevails, 
our supporters can advocate and obtain due process. 

However, such is not the case in some other countries. In the Dominican 
Republic, for example, where there are about 500,000 Haitians or alleged 
Haitians, as we previously mentioned, the official policy is the 
arbitrary deportation, without due process, at any chosen moment, of 
thousands of Haitians or people who "look" Haitian. The enforcer is not 
their Immigration Service, but the Dominican Army. Paradoxically, every 
year the Dominican Government requests the services of thousands of 
sugar cane cutters from Haiti since their sugar industry would collapse 
without the help of our 'braceros'. Pro-Haitian advocacy in the 
Dominican Republic is weak, but we in the Diaspora can help by 
supporting the actions of the National Coalition for Human Rights which 
has developed a Caribbean Migration and Human Rights Project to 
"investigate and propose solutions for the problems associated with 
Haitian immigrants living in states throughout the Caribbean region, 
particularly with the difficult situation of the various Haitian 
populations in the Dominican Republic". The networking of other 
pro-Haitian advocacy and community organizations of the Diaspora under 
the umbrella of the National Coalition would provide additional human 
and financial resources for that valuable agency. It bears mentioning 
here that according to I.N.S. statistics, more illegal immigration to 
the United States originates from the Dominican Republic than from 

The Haitian Diaspora has often demonstrated its resolve. Case in point: 
its success at having the Center for Disease Control and the American 
Red Cross stop their nonsensical across-the-board inclusion of all 
Haitians in their category of AIDS carriers. Properly organized, it can 
be instrumental in finding solutions to problems both in Haiti and 

III.- The Diaspora and Post-Duvalier Haiti: Attitudes and Policies, Dual 
Nationality vs. Preservation of Citizenship

After Jean-Claude Duvalier's departure in 1986, certain persons 
connected with the old regime tried to rob the Diaspora of the 
recognition it deserved for its decisive role in the struggle to defeat 
the dictatorship. Those persons seemed anxious to express their 
resentment. One of their tactics was to try to adulterate the 
respectable meaning of the term itself by making it their favorite curse 
word. To this date, such derogatory practice has not vanished from the 
mouths of a few individuals. Let us not be misled however by the poor 
attitude of a very tiny minority: actually, excellent rapport and 
affectionate ties exist between Haiti and its Diaspora. Together they 
are writing new chapters in the annals of our history, and opening new 
frontiers for our future. 

In 1987, in spite of strong opposition from several members of the 
Assembly in charge of writing a new Constitution, the majority voted to 
include in the Charter some Articles rather unfavorable to hundreds of 
thousands of victims of the Duvaliers who had acquired foreign 
citizenship during their long forced exile. Some legislators argued that 
those expatriates had "renounced their nationality", when in fact, their 
necessary, sometimes mandatory option for foreign citizenship was the 
consequence of their banishment. Note moreover, that beyond all personal 
reasons which may have motivated naturalization, that decision 
contributed valuable benefits to Haiti in her struggle to get rid of the 
dictatorship, since it allowed naturalized Haitians to act openly 
against that regime, without having to violate their host countries 
neutrality laws which bar foreigners from such activities. 

The Constituents of 1987 ratified the "renouncement" position, but with 
a serious flaw: they neglected a prime legal factor, the intent of the 
individuals. In the name of justice and for the protection of the 
citizen's basic rights, be it in civil, criminal or constitutional 
cases, intent cannot be ignored. Moreover, nowhere in the new 
Constitution do we find a definition of "renouncement", and the 
conditions for its validation. In French, one of the two official 
languages of Haiti "renoncer" means "to voluntarily abandon a right". 
The Creole version says: moun ki deklare yo pa vle Ayisyen ankò (people 
who have declared they didn't want to be Haitians any longer). The 
English translation uses "renounce." In any case, renouncing one's 
nationality is a voluntary action performed before a legally constituted 
entity. No Haitian could have ever made any declaration of this kind, 
since there is no such Haitian entity. Nor does American Law make 
renouncement a requirement for naturalization. Rather, the United States 
has statutes establishing the procedures to be followed by Americans who 
wish to relinquish their citizenship. Since most naturalized Haitians 
have U.S. citizenship, let us examine some aspects of the American 

U.S. citizens may renounce their nationality by formal declaration at 
one of their consular or diplomatic representations abroad, or at the 
Office of the Attorney General. The 14th Amendment prevents Congress 
from revoking a person's citizenship without evidence of his or her 
intention to give up said citizenship. American Laws are carefully 
worded when they deal with situations where U.S. citizenship may be lost 
or abandoned. For instance, for Americans to lose their citizenship 
because of foreign naturalization, the law requires that they must do so 
with the "intention of giving up their U.S. citizenship". Should the 
loss be the result of Government action, there are appeal procedures. On 
the other hand, the Government has the right to challenge a citizen's 
renouncement. It is worth noting in this regard, that Haitian-American 
citizens who have recovered their Haitian nationality upon their return 
to Haiti may still hold American citizenship. 

It is unfortunate that, after the overthrow of the Duvaliers, Haiti did 
not emulate the example of Germany where, after Hitler's defeat, full 
citizenship rights were restored to all expatriates who had adopted 
foreign nationalities during the Nazi domination. One of those was Willy 
Brandt who became Member of the West German Parliament, Lord Mayor of 
Berlin, Foreign Minister, and President of the German Confederation. 
Ironically, in the case of Haiti, the permanent loss by many former 
exiles of their citizenship stands today as a perennial monument to the 
Duvalier dictatorship, the Haitian counterpart of Nazism. 

Let us hope that, some day, Haiti will find a way to reopen the 
nationality door to its thousands of nationals who were first forced out 
by the Duvaliers and are now fenced out by the Constitution. Revision of 
that Constitution has been suggested, in order to allow 
dual-nationality. However, before implementing that long and difficult 
procedure, would it not be advisable perhaps to first seek the opinion 
of constitutional jurists, regarding the following question: does the 
lack of explicit inclusion in the Constitution of the "intent" factor 
necessarily signify its ipso facto implicit invalidation? 

Should revision be the chosen approach, I believe that the Articles 
dealing with the loss and/or renouncement of nationality need not be 
abrogated, merely amended in such a manner as to take into account the 
intent of the individuals,, as in the American model. Dual-nationality 
does not have to be necessarily acknowledged. For instance, while 
protecting the right of the citizens to keep their nationality, United 
States Law rejects dual-nationality. In our case, what is imperative, is 
the promulgation of legislation similar to the American model, which 
would formally recognize the concept of Preservation of Citizenship, 
i.e. the guarantee that one's nationality cannot be taken away against 
his/her will. In addition, a legally constituted entity empowered to 
accept or reject voluntary renouncement would have to be created.. 

IV.- Human Resources of the Diaspora

In his book Haïti de 1804 à nos jours, Jacques Barros writes that in the 
1950s, a United Nations report based on world-wide research had 
concluded that among the underdeveloped countries of that time, Haiti 
was the one Nation that possessed all the personnel it needed for its 
development. Today, fifty years later, a similar investigation would 
undoubtedly lead to the same conclusions. Even more so, because today's 
available personnel is more abundant; even more so, because we have now 
a new asset which did not exist in the '50s, i.e. the human resources of 
our Diaspora. Never throughout its history has Haiti had among its 
nationals, such a wealth of knowledgeable professionals, technicians, 
and skilled workers. Ways do exist in which those who are abroad could 
play valuable roles in its affairs. One immediately comes to my mind: 
for example, why couldn't we ask that foreign governments and 
international organizations which send advisers to Haiti consider the 
availability of qualified personnel from our Diaspora? 

One of the Post-Duvalier administrative measures was the creation of a 
Government Office to deal with matters concerning Haitians living 
abroad. Later on, the status of that office was raised to the level of 
Cabinet Ministry. The present Minister, Mr. Jean Généus, in a letter to 
the Haitians living abroad, dated April 29, 1999 lists several of his 
planned initiatives. Among them (my summary and translation): the 
creation at the international airport of a special information desk to 
insure that visiting Haitians have an enjoyable stay in the country; the 
organization, this year, of "Diaspora Week" (already took place from 
August 16 to August 22, 1999); the discussion of the dual nationality 
issue, and of the right to vote; the facilitation of investments 
involving the State, the Haitian communities abroad and private sectors; 
the utilization of the professional resources of the Diaspora by the 
Government in conformity with agreements made with foreign Governments 
and international organizations, etc.(end of my summary and 
translation). May I respectfully suggest two other possible initiatives 
to Minister Généus: 1) Many naturalized Haitians feel hurt when, upon 
their arrival on a trip to their native land, they are given temporary 
visas allowing them to stay for just a limited number of days in the 
mother land they were forced to leave. Why not stop this practice - a 
sad reminder that we are still victims of the Duvalier curse - by simply 
enacting regulations granting all Haitian-born individuals, of whatever 
nationality, the privilege of permanent residency? Such regulation 
should require no constitutional amendment. 2) The organization of a 
worldwide campaign of rehabilitation of our country's reputation, to 
counteract the continued negative propaganda orchestrated by our 
detractors. The campaign would be supervised by our Embassies and 
Consulates, and the Ministry of Haitians Living Abroad, who would enroll 
the help of professionals, intellectuals, artists, etc. from the 
Diaspora and the mother country. The initiative taken by Chargé 
d'Affaires Louis Harold Joseph to organize a series of cultural events 
is a step in the right direction for which he and the personnel of the 
Haitian Embassy in Washington deserve praise and encouragement. 

In a talk I gave in December 1997 at the "Cercle Antilles" of the United 
Nations Caribbean employees in New York, I mentioned some of the planned 
initiatives listed by the previous Minister, Mr. Paul Déjean his "lettre 
d'adieu"'. Among them (my summary and translation): the organization of 
inter-Haitian exchanges within all the branches of the Haitian 
communities abroad; the creation of Haitian cultural houses; the urgency 
to solve the nationality problem, which, Mr. Déjean says, should not be 
taken away or lost except by the voluntary action of the adult 
individual before a legally constituted entity, etc.(end of my 
translation and summary). 

V.- Economic Resources of the Diaspora

In addition to the new human resources, the present economic resources 
of our Diaspora did not exist in the fifties. It is estimated that the 
financial aid provided by Haitians living abroad to their families, 
relatives and friends in Haiti totals more than 600 million dollars 
annually. The exact figure is probably higher. Fund-raising events 
organized from time to time by charitable and political organizations 
from Haiti are known to have brought substantial results. On a broader 
scale, the country could benefit from many other advantages, if the 
proper steps were taken. For instance, here are two suggestions: first, 
an intensive campaign aimed at encouraging more Diaspora Haitians to 
visit the country; second, the implementation of long-term plans for the 
permanent return of expatriates who are already retired. 

Because of the limitations of our physical infrastructures, it will take 
a long time to see some improvement in foreign tourism. At present we 
only have about 1200 hotel rooms compared to the Dominican Republic's 
40,000. But our potential is practically unlimited. More than any other 
country in the area, and because of our unique assets - historical 
sites, artistic achievements, African-rooted religion and folklore, 
excellent climate, cool mountains, miles and miles of beautiful 
unspoiled beaches, etc. - we could market a variety of tourism with a 
real "vive la différence" flavor. At the same time, we should not 
neglect the taste of the more traditional tourist, especially the 
American to whom we should be able to offer their favorite pastime: 

Indeed we are now in no position to receive foreign tourists in any 
significant number. But our Diaspora population has shown that, as 
visitors, they are willing to accept some of the imperfections of their 
own land. Nevertheless, their land must be able to offer certain 
essential necessities to all, such as: security, water, transportation, 
electricity, communication, sanitation, regular and emergency health 
care including trauma centers, etc., all problems that Haiti has to face 
anyway. Better business arrangements would have to be made in order to 
obtain the inclusion of Haiti in the itineraries of more airlines, and 
their participation in the improvement of our airport facilities. On the 
other hand, the few existing hotels and restaurants of Port-au-Prince 
and Pétion-Ville are too expensive. The construction of affordable 
commercial lodging, as well as time-share complexes and inexpensive 
pied-à-terre bungalows in resort areas, could be promoted by offering 
tax incentives to investors. 

Finally, my favorite suggestion: a long-term plan aimed at encouraging 
the permanent return of retired nationals living abroad. There are now 
among the former exiles of the 60s, 70s, and 80s thousands enjoying 
comfortable retirement and social security revenues in addition to 
personal savings and other assets. However, their return on a large 
scale would need to be planned and predicated upon the improvement of 
the aforementioned unsatisfactory conditions, especially security, 
regular, emergency and trauma healthcare, and housing. In reference to 
the latter, and in view of the demographic saturation of the 
Port-au-Prince metropolitan area, the construction of new residential 
and retirement neighborhoods outside the Capital would have to be 
facilitated. The government could sell land at reasonable prices to the 
retirees, or to other people who would want to participate in the 
program, in regions of the interior or the coast already provided, or to 
be provided with access roads. However, its role should be strictly to 
facilitate the implementation of the program, without impeding its 
progress and the free flow of capital through counterproductive demands. 

Imagine the tremendous concrete impact the realization of such a plan 
could have on Haiti's present and future. On the conservative assumption 
that the retirees expenditures for the construction of a home would 
average just about $100,000, the return of 2000 heads of households per 
year would lead to the instant infusion of $200,000,000 dollars into the 
economy, plus the immediate and consistent improvement of our housing 
market. Note that the housing market is such an important factor that, 
in the United States, it is among the indices used by financial experts 
to determine the vitality or weakness of the overall economy. 

Let us have a dream and envision the return, in a few years, of some 
20,000 retirees who would spend an average of about $25,000 to $30,000 a 
year for their living expenses. This would represent an annual input of 
$500,000,000 to $600,000,000 into the economy, in addition to the 
aforementioned amounts, all of it money coming from abroad. Among other 
things, this influx of dollars would increase the country's cash flow, 
strengthen its national currency, lower the cost of imports, and improve 
its balance of payments. It would permeate through all layers of Haitian 
society, and would not be charity from foreign donors with strings 
attached. In addition, many fringe benefits would derive from the 
presence of retirees who would volunteer their services to schools, 
hospitals, churches, charities, community organizations, and so forth. 

To some people who may feel apprehensive about Diaspora Haitians 
arriving in Haiti to seek employment in an already depleted job market, 
allow me to respond by stressing the fact that the returnees, in the 
area of economics, would come not to take from their country, but to 
give to their country, and in the area of human relations, to share in 
the love that we all feel for our mother land. Therefore, let us not 
think of such a project as an impossible a dream, when what is required 
for its realization is only a vision of a better Haiti, and the will 
that the vision come to pass. Let us not allow the present difficulties 
faced by our country to cloud the horizon of our hopes. Instead, why not 
together paraphrase the poignant quote from George Bernard Shaw, used by 
Senator Edward Kennedy in his brother's eulogy: "Some men see things as 
they are and say 'why', let us dream of things that never were and say 
'why not'". 

The remarks of Dr. Férère do not necessarily reflect the policies of the 
Government of the Republic of Haiti

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