Most Americans view Haiti in much the way Trump describes it. The United States' responsibility for its awful state has a long history, Tate Watkins writes.
To be clear, the Haitian state and its leaders have perpetually hamstrung their own people, when not outright decimating them. But Haiti's history also includes a United States that initially refused to acknowledge or trade with the second free republic in the New World—the first free black republic, borne of a successful slave revolution. It includes two decades of occupation by U.S. Marines, a time when free Haitians were conscripted into chain gangs and shot dead for attempting to escape. It includes hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to a father-son dictatorship whose three-decade reign ruined the country's economy and murdered thousands of citizens. And it includes a foreign aid faucet that continues to flow today, despite the ill incentives it creates. Tweaks to immigration policy would do orders of magnitude more to help ordinary Haitians than that aid—as if helping Haitians were a concern of the present administration.
For everyday Haitians, life working as in the United States as a manual laborer, hotel housekeeper, or fruit picker is often much better and more lucrative than doing much of anything in Haiti. Roughly 80 percent of the half-a-million-plus Haitians who live in the U.S. are working age. Eight in 10 of them who are over 25 have high school degrees, which means they're slightly more educated than the average immigrant and only slightly less than native-born Americans.