The History Of U.S. Policy Toward Haitians Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced that illegal immigrants from Haiti who are already in the U.S. will have 18 months to live and work legally in the U.S. But the Defense Department is working to dissuade other Haitians from fleeing Haiti to reach the U.S.

The History Of U.S. Policy Toward Haitians

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Rebecca Roberts in Washington. Neal Conan is away.

It's been one week since the devastating earthquake in Haiti, and thousands of aid workers from the United States and around the world continue to distribute aid and look for survivors and provide medical attention to those already found.

But as U.S. officials continue coordinating relief efforts on the ground, they're also working with the Haitian government to dissuade Haitians who might try to leave Haiti from coming to the United States. In fact, every day, Haitians hear a message from Raymond Joseph, Haiti's ambassador to the United States, broadcast from a U.S. Air Force cargo plane, urging Haitians not to rush on boats to leave the country.

(Soundbite of music)

Ambassador RAYMOND JOSEPH (Haitian Ambassador to the United States): (Speaking foreign language).

ROBERTS: Because, I'll be honest with you, he says. If you think you will reach the U.S., and all the doors will be wide open to you, that is not at all the case. And they will intercept you right on the water and send you back home where you came from.

Last week, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced illegal immigrants from Haiti already in the U.S. would get temporary protected status, TPS, giving them 18 months to live and work here legally. But that's for Haitians who arrived before the earthquake, not for those yet to come. And while there's no evidence yet that Haitians are attempting to flee the country, many governments in the region feel it may just be a matter of time.

So should the United States welcome Haitians who flee their homes? If you're in Miami, home to a large Haitian community, we particularly want to hear from you. Our number here in Washington is 800-989-8255. Our email address is, and you can join the conversation at our Web site. Go to, and click on TALK OF THE NATION.

Joining me now from his home in Potomac, Maryland, is NPR senior news analyst Ted Koppel. Ted Koppel, welcome once again to TALK OF THE NATION.

TED KOPPEL: Well, thank you, Rebecca Roberts, nice to be with you.

ROBERTS: The U.S. government is sending a pretty clear message to Haitians: Don't come.

KOPPEL: I think it's sending a pretty clear message, and it was sending that even before the message became so clear. I hate to sound too cynical, but governments are not given to outbursts of great humanity. They do things, even the most humane things, they tend to do them for a pragmatic reason. And when the United States moves in, some say too slowly, but moves in as quickly and as massively as it has done over the past six, seven days in Haiti, it is doing so in some measure - certainly for humanitarian reasons - but in some measure to make sure that there is not an outpouring of Haitian refugees.

ROBERTS: So even before the overt statements that we heard from Janet Napolitano and from the Haitian ambassador to the U.S., the subtext of the strengths of the U.S. presence there is we're going to make sure it's stable enough there that you don't need to leave?

KOPPEL: Which, after all, is probably the most sensible thing to do anyway. If Haitians can see that their country is being rebuilt, if there is some hope that they will actually have homes to live in and food to eat and jobs to work at, all of these things are not necessarily conditions that have prevailed in Haiti in the past few years.

Over and over, we've heard people say it's the poorest country in the hemisphere, and it is, but if they can at least be convinced that life is possible in Haiti, why make that terribly dangerous, 700-mile trip in a small boat?

ROBERTS: We're having this conversation in the context of the earthquake, but of course, U.S.-Haiti relations didn't begin last Tuesday. You know, this isn't the first time the U.S. government has tried to dissuade Haitians from coming.

KOPPEL: No, I'm looking - actually, I did a little research this morning, Rebecca, knowing that you and I were going to be talking about this - and back in 1994, in May of 1994, when in fact the elected Haitian government of President Aristide had been overthrown by the military, President Clinton was making the point - and that overthrow by the military had, parenthetically, caused the outflow of a lot of refugees trying to come to the United States - President Clinton said the possibility of a massive outflow of Haitians is the most important reason why the U.S. may use force - and in fact ultimately, it did use force - to restore President Aristide to power.

So, you know, the idea that thousands of Haitians may come to the United States is one that has been discouraged by a number of presidents, including President Carter, President Bush 41, President Bush 43. In fact, President Bush 43 made the interesting argument that there was a national security reason for keeping Haitians away. The idea being that if Haitians were brought into the United States, if they were allowed to land, if they were given any kind of status here, that would encourage others to come. And if so many came, and there were so many small boats out there, the U.S. Coast Guard would be not just distracted but taken away from its principal job of protecting the United States against terrorist attack.

ROBERTS: In your analysis, when you hear these warnings against thousands of Haitian refugees, either then or now, is it the word thousands that seems most important in that or the word Haitian? I mean, is this about the scope of the refugee possibilities or about where they're coming from?

KOPPEL: I think it's both. I mean, first of all, particularly this time - and you know, Rebecca, the extraordinary thing about this particular tragedy is that it comes close on the heels of, what was it, three hurricanes or even four hurricanes that hit...

ROBERTS: In 2008, right?

KOPPEL: In 2008 - that hit during the summer of 2008. And again, in sort of reading through the research this morning, I saw that at the time, the comment was made that this is the worst natural disaster to hit Haiti in 100 years.

We're talking now about the hurricanes back in 2008. Now comes yet another disaster, even greater than those three hurricanes put together. And the possibility that you could have not thousands, not tens of thousands but hundreds of thousands, you know, we may have as many as two to three million homeless in Haiti now, and if they thought that there was any kind of welcome for them here in the United States, they'd be on their way.

ROBERTS: I want to bring in another voice to help us understand the history of policy towards Haitians seeking refuge in the U.S. Joining us now is Jocelyn McCalla. He's a senior advisor to the United Nation's Special Envoy to Haiti and a former director of the National Coalition for Haitian Rights. He's with me now from our New York bureau. Thank you for being on TALK OF THE NATION.

Mr. JOCELYN MCCALLA (Senior Advisor, Haiti's Special Envoy to the United Nations): It's my pleasure.

ROBERTS: First, give us a sense, since you've worked with the Haitian-American community for many years, how many Haitians are thought to be here in the U.S., and what can you tell us about the community in general?

Mr. McCALLA: Well, before I begin, let me make a slight correction. I am the senior advisor to Haiti's Special Envoy to the U.N., and so I am not really - it's a little complicated, but President Clinton is not my boss. Mr. Voltaire, who is representing the Haitian government, is my boss and I respond to him.

Now this said, I mean, the number of Haitians in the United States varies between various estimates. Some estimates put it at about a million people. Some estimates put it at a much higher level. Certainly, if you take into account both the Haitian immigrants and their offspring in the United States, it's a very large community, and primarily disseminated in New York City, in Miami, in South Florida and North Florida, as well as Illinois and Maryland and so on.

So you have a sizable population. You have a situation in which many Haitians are now in positions of influence, both in the private and public sector in the United States. There are now many Haitian-American elected officials, something that did not exist 20 years ago. You have a number of Haitians who are, in fact, members of the federal government at this stage, in fairly high-level position in the Obama administration.

And so this is a very different story than from the story that I started with, which was a story of Haitian refugees hitting the shores of Florida and being denied refugee status or the protection of the legal system in the United States that would allow them to seek asylum in the United States.

At the time, Haitians were being turned in in large numbers. The fear that Mr. Koppel talked about has, in fact, been a constant concern of the United States - fear of mass migration should the Haitians be - get the notion that the United States would be a welcome refuge. And therefore, the United States has had this twin policy of trying to moderate its policy of welcoming refugees, as well as a policy that says we don't want to be flooded with Haitians on our shores.

ROBERTS: Do you think that rise of Haitian political influence in this country will change the political circumstance around potential refugees now?

Mr. McCALLA: Oh, I think the rise of the political clout of the Haitian-American has changed in significant manner. The (unintelligible) I think that frankly, it is primarily because there is much more of an influence of Haitian or Haitian-related officials in the administration that now the administration can take a much more reasonable approach to Haiti, rather than the sort of cynical approaches that were adopted in years back.

ROBERTS: Ted Koppel, I want to get you in here.

KOPPEL: Well, let me just add what has been the unspoken aspect to this conversation. In terms of both political impact and just the sheer unfairness with which Haitians have been treated over the past several years, and I suspect will continue to be treated, and that is the racial aspect. It is no secret, certainly in Southern Florida, that the Cuban community, for example, and Cuban refugees have been treated differently. Indeed, different laws apply, quite literally, to them to this day, than those that apply to the Haitian community. So I think it's something we have to introduce into this conversation: Race is a factor.

ROBERTS: And we will continue this conversation after a quick break. We are talking with Ted Koppel, NPR senior news analyst, and Jocelyn McCalla, a senior advisor to the Bureau of Haiti's Special Envoy to the United Nations.

And we want to hear from you. Should the United States welcome Haitians who flee their homes? We're taking your calls at 800-989-8255. You can also send us email. The address is I'm Rebecca Roberts. It's TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

ROBERTS: This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Rebecca Roberts in Washington.

Conditions in earthquake-rocked Haiti grow more dire each day, and U.S. authorities are preparing for a possible influx of Haitians seeking to escape the devastation. We're talking about the U.S. policy toward Haitian immigrants and refugees with senior news analyst Ted Koppel and with Jocelyn McCalla, senior advisor to the Haiti's Special Envoy to the U.N.

And we want to hear from you. Should the United States welcome Haitians? If you're in Miami, home to a large Haitian community, we particularly want to hear from you. Give us a call at 800-989-8255. Our email address is, and you can join the conversation at our Web site. Go to, and click on TALK OF THE NATION.

Given the level of destruction in Haiti, many in the Dominican Republic worry about an influx of refugees. The main border crossing between the neighboring countries is about 35 miles from Port-au-Prince. NPR's Russell Lewis is there in Jimani(ph) in the Dominican Republic. He joins us now by phone. Russell, you've been traveling this road between Port-au-Prince and the border. Is there any sign of a significant number of Haitian refugees heading for the DR?

RUSSELL LEWIS: Oh, not that I saw at all today. In fact, most of the traffic, most of the cars that we saw, were actually in Port-au-Prince proper today. In fact, it took me about an hour to go five or six miles today. There was that much traffic.

But once we got out of the city center proper and made our way to the border, we saw a lot more cars coming from the Dominican Republic into Haiti than the other way around. So it seems like at this point, most of the vehicle traffic are relief workers going to and from and not any influx of people coming from Haiti into the Dominican Republic.

ROBERTS: Now the exception, of course, is people going into the Dominican Republic for medical care. You have been reporting on a public hospital just inside the border. Have Haitians been able to get treatment there?

LEWIS: Well, from what I saw last night, yes, there is a public hospital that is here in Jimani. And last night at about 10 or 11 o'clock or so, there were about three dozen Haitians that had just gotten here yesterday. They were there getting medical treatment. They were waiting in a makeshift waiting room. Some of them had broken bones. Some of them had casts on, and there were a lot of medical staff sort of running to and fro. And I have to say in a border town that's as small as this one, having three dozen people in a hospital at, you know, 10 o'clock at night is not a usual occurrence.

ROBERTS: Are you seeing any extra security at the border?

LEWIS: It's hard for me to say, having only just sort of been at the border for a day or two.


LEWIS: But I didn't see a lot. There's not a heavy presence, you know, in either direction, in all reality.

ROBERTS: While you were in Port-au-Prince, getting back to this notion that refugees may be coming here to the U.S., what did you see at the American embassy?

LEWIS: Well, we drove by that today, as we were exiting, and I was surprised by what I saw. There were easily 400 or 500 people that were waiting in line. They appeared to be, many of them, to be Haitian, although I did see one woman with a U.S. passport, and they were just waiting in the hot sun.

It's still, it's like 90 degrees in Port-au-Prince, and it's very warm. There's people just waiting. The lines were not moving, it didn't appear, so - and I should say even at the Canadian embassy, which we also drive by, we saw perhaps 50 or 60 people waiting in line there. So I don't know if it's people trying to get visas to come into these countries or what, but I mean, I was surprised to see how many people were lined up at the U.S. embassy today.

ROBERTS: NPR's Russell Lewis, on the border between Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Thanks for joining us.

LEWIS: Oh, you're welcome. My pleasure.

ROBERTS: And we are discussing the potential Haitian refugees, where they might go, whether they would come to the U.S. and what might happen if they do come to the U.S. My guests are NPR senior analyst - news analyst, Ted Koppel, and Jocelyn McCalla, senior advisor to the Bureau of Haiti's Special Envoy to United Nations.

And we're taking your calls. Let's start with Kevin(ph) in Blakely, Georgia. Kevin, welcome to TALK OF THE NATION.

KEVIN (Caller): Hello, how are you doing?

ROBERTS: Good, how are you?

KEVIN: I'm good. I wanted to ask a question about something Mr. Koppel touched on, the differences in the U.S. immigration policy for Haitian-Americans as compared to Cuban-Americans. I found it to be a bit one-sided. Cuban-Americans, obviously when they come here, Cubans rather, when they come here, they're allowed to stay. Haitians, on the other hand, when they come, they're immediately returned or, if they're not returned, they're kept in - housed in detention centers or in prisons or jails.

A good example is about 10 years ago, the case of Elian Gonzalez. When he came, his mother brought him from Cuba. Obviously, she didn't make. You know, she died in the process, but he was brought here, and I think, if I remember correctly, he was put into, you know, this nice house up in D.C. He was given a trip to Disneyworld, and I think shortly after that, there were some Haitians who attempted to come to this country. And when they got here, they were housed in detention centers. So my question is: What is the difference in the policy, and why is there such a difference?

ROBERTS: Kevin, thanks for your call. Let's give Ted Koppel a chance to respond.

KOPPEL: Well, Mr. McCalla may have more-precise information on this, but let me take a first crack at it. There's the dry-foot-wet-foot notion. If a Cuban actually manages to set foot on dry land, having come by boat from Cuba to Southern Florida, he or she is automatically given an opportunity to stay in the country and to apply for permanent residence.

And the caller is quite correct: That is not true of Haitians. And indeed, Haitians either have the status of illegal immigrants, if they come in and they're not caught, and there are said to be about 100,000 or so illegal Haitians in the country right now. It is those people, together with 30,000 Haitians who have actually been ordered deported, to whom that policy of temporary protected status applies.

That was just put in place earlier this week. And what it means is that for the next 12 to 18 months, they will be permitted to stay here in the United States, permitted to work here in the United States. Sort of a little parenthetical thought about that, and that is the TPS, temporary protected status, was, for example, applied to many Hondurans who came after Hurricane Mitch in 1990. They're still here, and they still have temporary protected status. So that's an issue that becomes a bit of a political thorn.

ROBERTS: Jocelyn McCalla, can you add to that?

Mr. McCALLA: I certainly can. I think the one thing we need to bear in mind is that the gap in different treatment was, in fact, much wider going back to the 1960s. In 1966, the Congress enacted the Cuban Adjustment Act, which essentially granted asylum to any Cubans who were - who had made it to the United States, whether that be on dry land or in the territorial waters of the United States. At the time, the territorial waters of the United States were about 12 miles offshore for the purposes of immigration and authority.

Now over time, and because Cuban migration has appeared to be as uncontrolled, so to speak, as the Haitian migration - Mr. Koppel mentioned, for example, in 1994 period, and he mentioned a certain period in May and sort of the statement that Mr. Clinton had said at the time - well, shortly afterwards, in July of 1994, there were two waves of refugees. One was a Haitian wave and then the Cuban wave. Both were, in fact, interdicted at sea and held back at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, at the military naval base, where there were two camps: one about 20,000 Haitians, and another one, which was, in fact, larger by Cubans.

So since then, the administrations have tried to restrict or tried to limit the number of Cubans who were coming to the United States, but still the statutes remain. And the statutes basically grant Cubans who make it to the United States on dry land, whether they come ashore on boats or whether they cross a border from Mexico into the United States, essentially a pass as a refugee in the United States.

ROBERTS: We are getting a lot of emails about what U.S. policy toward Haitian refugees should be. I'm going to read a couple that are representative.

Renee(ph) says: Do unto others. Of course we should welcome the people. We are a land of plenty, and it's time we get over ourselves and reach for a higher level of moral development. Lynn(ph) from Florida says: I live in South Florida. I believe we can open our doors to the Haitian people. Perhaps all Haitians with relatives in the U.S. who will vouch for their caretaking can be received at this time.

Keith(ph) says: There are more than a million Haitians in the U.S. already. This seems to be quite a few as it is, yet people seem to bending over backwards to appear politically correct. And Helen(ph) says: We definitely should not allow any more refugees into our country. We can hardly support our own population. We need to give them the means to help themselves in their own country.

Now, these are obviously only four emails, not, you know, statistically driven data, but it speaks to the political atmosphere in this country that the Obama administration is making these decisions in. Ted Koppel?

KOPPEL: Yeah, I was going to make this point, Rebecca. The interesting thing is that even the Obama administration, which indeed campaigned on the premise of lifting some of the restrictions against Haitians, even the Obama administration, when it came into office last year, did not apply TPS, temporary protected status, to the Haitians who are in the country. It has taken last week's earthquake to move them in that direction, and if that doesn't give you a sense of what a political hot potato this is, nothing will.

I mean the Obama administration - and I take Mr. McCalla at his word - I'm sure there are a number of senior Haitians now in this administration and in government. But they don't have that much influence yet.

ROBERTS: Let's take a call from Dale(ph) in Tucson, Arizona. Dale, welcome to TALK OF THE NATION.

DELL (Caller): Yes, thank you for letting me join the conversation. I wanted to take advantage of having Ted Koppel on the show and just ask about looking towards the future - what could we see Haiti having to offer? How could we take advantage of the need to rebuild Haiti so that people would not feel the need to leave right now?

KOPPEL: Well, it's a terrific question.

(Soundbite of laughter)

KOPPEL: It gives me a chance to give everyone who doesn't know this already - a very quick history lesson. Haiti is, as most of our listeners I'm sure do know, was once a land of slaves and it was a French colony. And then in the very late 18th century there was a slave uprising in Haiti and French forces were actually defeated. These were Napoleon's forces, so that was no small task. They were defeated, but the French hung around and were enough of a problem that the Haitians in order to gain absolute freedom had to buy their freedom from the French government. They had to pay reparations; here were the ex-slaves having to pay reparations to their former masters.

I mean, you know, talk about irony. And they had to pay an extraordinary amount, the payment of which didn't end until 1947. And it, in fact, it just bankrupted the entire country, and the manner in which most of the payments were made was with the hard wood forests that were cut down and turned into French furniture. And so the degree of poverty that has existed in modern times in Haiti is 200 years or more in the making and the idea of being able to turn Haiti around and turn Haiti into a thriving functioning, profitable kind of society may be beyond the capabilities of anyone, certainly in the short term.

It's going to take a lot of money, a lot of effort, a lot of understanding, and a lot of hard work, and a great deal of time.

ROBERTS: That's NPR's senior news analyst Ted Koppel. You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. And Jocelyn McCalla, I want to turn our caller's question to you. If there is an opportunity here to rebuild Haiti, if there is a, you know, Phoenix to rise from these ashes, what would your wish list include? What do you think would keep Haitians in Haiti?

Mr. MCCALLA: Well, I think immediately what the international community, including the United States, need to understand and need to do is to make sure that the people of Haiti get into the business of rebuilding the country as quickly as possible. I think there has not been a lot of attention paid to the fact that the first responders - to the earthquake damage and so on - have been the Haitians themself. And there's an immense degree of solidarity and support that they have managed to develop, even as they have suffered directly from the devastation. So I think that we should not forget that.

The second thing then becomes that though - I agree with Mr. Koppel, I mean it's going to be, it's going to take a lot of resources, a lot of good will, a lot of efforts; it's not going to be - I mean Haiti is not going to be able to go back to what it was about a year ago or even two years ago - for Haiti to rebuild, it needs to change its structures - its political and physical structures as well. And it needs to include Haitians from all over the world. So I think that as I look at the future, I'm looking at a situation in which possibly many more skilled Haitians who make their living nice states should be broad aboard so that they can be part of the rebuilding process in Haiti and that the Haitians themselves - if you have people-focused policies being implemented by Haiti's allies and including the Haiti government, then I think that we have a fair chance of making it and a fair chance of saying to people that you're not going to have a massive exodus of Haitians out there. But some of the early steps are going to be key to making sure that this (unintelligible) happen.

ROBERTS: We have a question for you, Jocelyn McCalla, from Paulette(ph) in Miami. She writes: Will the 30,000 Haitians currently in custody awaiting deportation be released as a result of TPS or will they remain in custody for the 18-month duration covered by TPS?

Mr. MCCALLA: Well, I'm not sure I'm the one who is capable of answering that question because, you know, I'm not working the administration at this point. But I suspect that most of them are going to be released because most of them are not held - judged to be hardened criminals.

ROBERTS: And we do have information from a top immigration official -Citizenship and Immigration Services director Alejandro Mayorkas says that applications for TPS can be filed as soon as official notice is published in the federal register, which is likely to be Thursday. He warned against mailing in forms until official notice is given; he says those mailed before are likely to be delayed. We are talking about Haitian refugees and what U.S. policy towards them should be this hour. We are joined by Ted Koppel, NPR senior news analyst. And we also have with us Jocelyn McCalla, senior advisor to the bureau of Haiti's special envoy to the United Nation's. Mr. McCalla, thank you so much for joining us.

Mr. MCCALLA: Thank you.

ROBERTS: He joined us from our New York bureau. We will continue this conversation, we will be joined by David North. He tells us more about the role of Haiti's neighbors in the event of refugee crisis. And we want to hear from you. Our number here in Washington is 800-989-8255. You can also send us email, our email address is And you can join the conversation at our Web site; go to and click on TALK OF THE NATION. What do you think U.S. policy towards Haitian refugees should be? Should it differ from a refugee policy from - people from other nations? And particularly if you live in Miami or New York or any of the other places in the U.S. where there is a sizable Haitian community, we'd like to hear your prospective on this - 800-989-8255, or send email to I'm Rebecca Roberts, it's TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

ROBERTS: We are discussing today Haitian refugees, whether they will come to the U.S., what U.S. policy should be towards them. My guest is NPR senior news analyst Ted Koppel, and with us now is David North; he's currently a research fellow for the Center for Immigration Studies. He has conducted research on immigrant and refugee issues for the Haitian government, the Ford Foundation and the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement. He joins me here in Studio 3A. Thank you for joining us.

Mr. DAVID NORTH (Center For Immigration Studies): You're welcome.

ROBERTS: In a post you wrote yesterday for the Center for Immigration Studies, you noted that Haiti's neighbors should be stepping up to do more to address the issue of Haiti's asking to leave.

Mr. NORTH: I think they should. That depends on whether or not there in fact is a great exodus of Haitians and Haitian refugees. If that happens, and I think that's a big if, then yes, the islands nearby should be helpful. Dominican Republic, which is right across the border; Puerto Rico, which is American; Virgin Island, which is American - all those places are much closer than the mainland of the United States. And those countries - or that country and those territories should be enlisted.

ROBERTS: And what should the U.S. government role be in that enlistment?

Mr. NORTH: Encouragement. The Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and the territory of the Virgin Islands are both probably more dependent than they would like to be on federal moneys. The United States government, the government in Washington, has considerable clout with those places.

ROBERTS: So by encouragement you mean�

Mr. NORTH: Well, if there is to be a flow of refugees - then I want to talk about something else a minute - if there is to be such a flow, then there is the question of where they go and this is an intricate process that I don't want to get into right now with you. But if there is such a flow, then these islands which have heretofore done practically nothing in terms of resettling refugees from Vietnam, from Afghanistan and hither and yon, they should be enlisted this time around.

ROBERTS: And Ted Koppel, is there a role, do you think, for the U.S. to encourage other nations to pick up the potential need for refugees?

KOPPEL: Well, I mean that's always been the case. Let me pick up on what your other guest raised just a moment ago, this - there being no evidence as yet of any great out-flux, any great sense that there is going to be a wave of refugees. Of course not. It's only been a week. I think the first thing that people�

Mr. NORTH: Yeah. I agree.

KOPPEL: �are trying to do, the first thing that people are trying to do is find out whether their relatives, their friends are still alive, whether or not their home is still in one piece, whether they can retrieve anything. You know, it has only been a week and the aftershock both literally and figuratively will take several more weeks. The effort, I mean the only point I was trying to make at the very outset is the effort of the U.S. government in terms of U.S. national interest is to make things as good in Haiti as quickly as it possibly can, to discourage precisely the very thing that we have been talking about. The name of the game is to discourage refugees, to give them every incentive to stay where they are.

ROBERTS: David North?

Mr. NORTH: Let me add to that and agree with that. One of the things that we haven't talked about is sort of a cost/benefit ratio, and it costs a whole lot more to bring a family of refugees from anywhere in the world to the United States than it does to take care of 100, 200 people who are in the home country. And so in this case, we are not dealing with a selected group of refugees who are selected, essentially selected out by, say, a communist government in Vietnam, for instance. We're dealing with a whole population. And so it gets to be extremely expensive to move large numbers of refugees around. And there is no particular need to do anything for a particular segment of the refugees. There is an enormous need to spend money intelligently, on among other things birth control, for instance, in Haiti for the long run. And we get much more if we spend the money in-country than we do in the resettlement agencies in the United States.

KOPPEL: Right. And, Rebecca, if I may, there's one other point to be made, because foreign aid is routinely dismissed as being, sort of, wimpish and weak and, oh boy, you know, I mean, the good old Uncle Sam coming in. The fact of the matter is that foreign aid is, has been, and always will be the most cost-effective way of purchasing - to put it in a very crass way - the interests -the national interests of the United States. As Mr. North just pointed out, you can accomplish more with $1 in Haiti than you can with $100 here in the United States.

ROBERTS: Let's take a call from Barbara(ph) in Miami. Barbara, welcome to TALK OF THE NATION.

BARBARA (Caller): Thank you so much. It's been a wonderful listening for the last 30 minutes, because it's - Mr. Koppel has told us the history and we all should know that. I was born in Miami. I was here during anti-Semitism. I was here when they brought the Cubans in and many of them are good friends, and they're artists and wonderful people. And I was here when the Mariels came, which brought us not so good people but a lot of - it was all right.

And I lived near Little Havana and I think that - Little Haiti, I'm sorry. And I think that the Haitians are terrific. A lot of them are friends. They're quiet. They're bright. They're creative. And, of course, we should have them here. I mean, this is terrible. There are a lot of us that feel like this. I mean, it's terrible that we have a different, you know, reaction to the Cuban's impatience.

ROBERTS: Barbara, thank you for your call. David North, what role does a community like Little Haiti in Miami - how does that factor into a cost-benefit analysis, if there is an existing community with people who speak Creole who might have some infrastructure in place to welcome refugees?

Mr. NORTH: That's - that obviously is helpful if there is such an influx. And it doesn't have anything to do with the point that Mr. Koppel and I both have made that it costs - it's much more effective to do - deliver public services, medical services, food, whatever in the country that's having trouble than it is in the United States.

ROBERTS: And I don't know if either of you have answer for this question, but we have an email from Marcus(ph) who says, does our fear of AIDS and the cost of treating it play a role in our Haitian policies? What can be done?

KOPPEL: Oh, I think there are all kinds of irrational fears that play into this. But let me make one more point of the role of the Haitians who are already here, and it is truly an extraordinary role. They are among the most generous remitters of funds, from here back to their families in Haiti. So, the fact of the matter is, that the temporary protection status that allows at least 100 if not 130,000 of the Haitians who were here to continue working for the next year or so also has a very practical application. They send an awful lot of money home. They are...

ROBERTS: Yeah, I looked at that number yesterday. According to the World Bank, it's a billion dollars.

KOPPEL: A billion, yeah. I mean, they're extraordinarily generous.

ROBERTS: And did you have an answer for the AIDS question, David North?

Mr. NORTH: Oh, I think that that's always, kind of, unspoken in the back of some people's minds. I don't think it should be, but it is.

ROBERTS: Let's take a call from Ray(ph) in Fort Lauderdale. Ray, welcome to TALK OF THE NATION.

RAY (Caller): Hi. Yes, thank you for letting me join.

ROBERTS: Sure. Welcome.

RAY: I guess my question for the panelists was, you know, I agree that rebuilding infrastructure is a good way to, hopefully, you know, stop an enormous influx of refugees. But beyond that, in the long term, how do the panelists think that we can maintain a middle ground between, you know, stopping a potential enormous influx of undocumented refugees and while still adopting, you know, a humanitarian approach towards those who really do need to leave the country or for those who can come to this country that have ties here through the Little Haiti communities and things of that nature?

ROBERTS: Rey, thanks for your call. Yes, Ted Koppel?

KOPPEL: There have been times when people were leaving Haiti and droves for political reasons, for reasons of human rights violations - during the Duvalier regimes. This is not one of those times. At the moment, we are only talking about - I say only, understanding how dreadful that only is - but we're only talking about a natural disaster.

There is no political reason for people to leave. And if they can be made comfortable, and if the resources can be brought to bear to rebuild Haiti, it is in everybody's interest - in the interest of each Haitian individual, in the national interest of Haiti and in the national interest of the United States, that it be done that way rather thousands of people from Haiti coming to this country.

ROBERTS: David North?

Mr. NORTH: I agree. I - I'm not as eloquent as he is, but I think he's got it exactly right.

ROBERTS: We have an email from Jack(ph) in Livermore, California that gets to the political context in this country. He says, if President Obama looks like he's more sympathetic to the world's problems rather than jobs in America, he will be a one-term president, and the Democrats could well lose control of Congress. Ted Koppel?

KOPPEL: Well, as I was saying before, there's not a great deal of sympathy in this country for foreign aid, but I do wish - and I'm speaking now as a long-term diplomatic and foreign correspondent, and as someone who has a sense of what foreign aid can do - I do wish that Americans would begin to understand that the appropriate application of foreign aid is infinitely cheaper, infinitely more effective and infinitely kinder - both to the recipient and to the people of the United States - than using force to implement a national strategy.

Mr. NORTH: I would like to add that our ratio - the amount of money that the United States sends overseas - I quite agree with Ted Koppel - is quite small compared to some of the countries of northern Europe, particularly. All of whom are considerably further away from these problem areas, these depressed areas, and all of whom contribute much more per head than we do.

ROBERTS: David North, he's an immigration policy researcher for the Center for Immigration Studies. He joined us here in Studio 3A. You can find a link to his commentary on our Web site at Thank you so much for joining us.

Mr. NORTH: You're welcome.

ROBERTS: And Ted Koppel is an NPR senior news analyst. He joined me today from his home in Potomac, Maryland. Thank you so much to you.

KOPPEL: Nice to be with you. Thank you.

ROBERTS: You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

Copyright © 2010 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.