To the editor:
In 1991-92, I was in charge of interpreters screening Haitian refugees at the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. It was the most difficult, heart-rending job I have ever had.
For 14 hours a day, seven days a week, we conducted in Haitian Creole 20- to 40-minute interviews that decided the remainder of someone's entire life. The rules of the U.S. Justice Department's Immigration and Naturalization Service, under which we operated, were very clear: either political refugees or economic refugees.
If the Haitian refugee could convince us that he/she would be under political threat of imprisonment, torture and/or death if returned by us to Haiti, as decreed by both U.S. and international law he/she would be accorded political refugee status in the United States. On the other hand, if he/she were simply an economic refugee fleeing Haiti's endemic poverty in order to seek an honest job in the United States, with no threat of political persecution back in Haiti, he/she would be on the next U.S. Coast Guard cutter to be simply dropped off at the Port-au-Prince wharf.
The reason given to us was that the United States could not take in the world's poor.
Have the rules changed so radically since then? Are Haitians any less human beings than Hispanics? What is justice? Where is justice?
Bryant C. Freeman,