Haitian Refugees: Are we missing a teachable lesson?

HOUSTON – While working in Social Services for the last 10 years of my employment at Harris County, I would often ask workers that qualified citizens for emergency assistance such as rental and utility assistance whether they have serviced any Haitians. The answer would always be No.

The Haitian immigrant story is below the radar when speaking of successful immigrant resettlement. Usually, the conversation du jour is about South Asians and Hispanics. However, a strong case can be made that in Houston, no immigrant group has been more successful at pursuing the mercurial American dream than the Haitians No, not the Vietnamese, nor the Hmong groups from Cambodia and Laos.
In 1980, the late Congressman Mickey Leland convened a group of citizens to begin advocacy and launch a concrete plan for Houston to receive Haitian refugees. Daily reports of human misery, drowning of men, women and children and overcrowded morgues in Miami were prominent in the media.

In behalf of this ad hoc humanitarian relief effort, Leland and the committee sent me to Miami to assess the situation. I camped in Little Haiti and was stunned by the images and testimony that I received. The visit to the morgue transfixed me. When I returned to Houston and gave my reports, there was no hesitation about immediately providing relief.
We cooperated with Church World Services and leaders from local anchor institutions matched resources with their big hearts. Hospitals in the medical center, nursing homes through the communities, city and state government and churches brought all hands-on deck and opened their hearts and bank accounts. Through the good will of Rep. Leland and his cohorts, pillars of the community led by Ms. Hawkins began to provide housing and employment. Many of the Haitians who ventured the high seas on vessels that were not sea- worthy have now retired from active work from the University of Texas Hospital System and the City of Houston.
Perhaps, what is most memorable is that all of the Haitians pushed back strongly against food stamps and welfare. To a man and a woman, they desired the dignity of employment so that they could support their family and begin remittances to their loved ones in Haiti. Without hesitation, Haitians gladly took unskilled jobs such as laundry and janitorial helpers, parks and recreation –flood control workers. Mosquitoes and near 100-degree temperatures were not a deterrent, only a formidable challenge that they were eager to meet.

This is all significant because of the disproportional and inequitable response to the black refugees from Haiti. For example, Cuban refugee of any hue only had to reach American soil to attain a political refugee status. If Haitians made it to land, a new status was applied, entrant. Although, they were fleeing a brutal dictatorship led by Papa Doc Duvalier, the United States argued that they were coming to these shores for economic reasons (jobs). Haitians who were intercepted on the high seas were interdicted and repatriated, but not Cubans.

Nevertheless, Haitians have come to a nation of immigrants and have become near perfect citizens. They have successfully assimilated. These Haitians are now bullish on America and think that this country is exceptional despite its imperfections. They never saw the sonnet at Ellis Island that asks for the wretched refuse of your teeming shore, the tempest tossed.

In behalf of the thousands of Haitians that are proud to be part of this global salad, thanks.

In behalf of the courageous Houstonians who stepped out on faith and love, we are thankful for the extraordinary grace and mercy that led us to stand in the gap for boats that were temporarily stuck on the bottom.

Indeed, the politics of the 1980’s immigration crisis was somewhat complex. Perhaps, after three and a half decades there is a teachable lesson for us to learn and apply. Should it mind that the black refugees from Haiti swam against the tide and pushed through dangerous riptides.

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October 16, 2023, HOUSTON, TX – Congressional Candidate Amanda Edwards has raised over $1 million in less than 4 months, a substantial sum that helps bolster the frontrunner status of the former At-Large Houston City Council Member in her bid for U.S. Congress. Edwards raised over $433,000 in Q3 of 2023. This strong Q3 report expands on a successful Q2 where Edwards announced just 11 days after declaring her candidacy that she had raised over $600,000. With over $829,000 in cash-on-hand at the end of the September 30th financial reporting period, Edwards proves again that she is the clear frontrunner in the race. “I am beyond grateful for the strong outpouring of support that will help me to win this race and serve the incredible people of the 18th Congressional District,” said Edwards. “We are at a critical juncture in our nation’s trajectory, and we need to send servant leaders to Congress who can deliver the results the community deserves. The strong support from our supporters will help us to cultivate an 18th Congressional District where everyone in it can thrive.” Edwards said. “Amanda understands the challenges that the hard-working folks of the 18th Congressional District face because she has never lost sight of who she is or where she comes from; she was born and raised right here in the 18th Congressional District of Houston,” said Kathryn McNiel, spokesperson for Edwards’ campaign. Edwards has been endorsed by Higher Heights PAC, Collective PAC, Krimson PAC, and the Brady PAC. She has also been supported by Beto O’Rourke, among many others. About Amanda: Amanda is a native Houstonian, attorney and former At-Large Houston City Council Member. Amanda is a graduate of Eisenhower High School in Aldine ISD. Edwards earned a B.A. from Emory University and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. Edwards practiced law at Vinson & Elkins LLP and Bracewell LLP before entering public service. Edwards is a life-long member of St. Monica Catholic Church in Acres Homes. For more information, please visit www.edwardsforhouston.com

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Calling all teenage student-athletes! If you have dreams of playing college soccer and wish to represent an HBCU, the HBCU ID Camp is your golden opportunity. From 8 am to 5 pm on November 11-12, Houston Sports Park will transform into a hub for aspiring male and female soccer players. Coaches from HBCUs across the nation will be present to evaluate, scout, and offer valuable feedback. Moreover, they might even spot the next soccer prodigy to join their collegiate soccer programs. This camp is not just about honing your soccer skills but also a chance to connect with the HBCU soccer community. You’ll learn the ins and outs of what it takes to excel on the field and in the classroom, which is crucial for a college athlete. The HBCU ID Camp is an excellent platform to network with coaches, learn from experienced athletes, and take the first steps toward your college soccer journey. To secure your spot at this incredible event, don’t forget to register [here](insert registration link). Space is limited to 120 participants, so make sure to reserve your place before it’s too late. It’s time to turn your dreams of playing college soccer into a reality.

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