How should the US respond to Haiti’s turmoil following Moïse’s assassination?

EXCLUSIVE: The assassination of the Haitian President Jovenel Moïse took the Caribbean nation and officials in Washington by surprise

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The assassination of the Haitian President Jovenel Moïse and the wounding of the country’s first lady, Martine Moïse, are said to have taken the island nation and even officials in Washington by surprise.

President Haiti Jovenel Moise
President Haiti Jovenel Moise addresses the United Nations General Assembly on September 27, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

The topic of Haiti dominated the White House press briefing Thursday in the midst of the unrest in the Caribbean nation. Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the administration “supports [Haitian] Democratic institutions” and that it is urging all the “Haitian political parties and civil societies” to come together to work for calm. 

The Biden administration has not backed any person to rise as the next Haitian president as the White House recognized the “trauma” in the country and “stands ready to provide support.”

Psaki fielded various questions from many reporters on the issue. She told the packed briefing room of attendees that the White House continues to be engaged and in touch through multiple channels in Haiti.

“We are going to let the investigation in Haiti play out when it comes to standing up to the Democratic Haitian government,” said Psaki adding, “we continue to call for elections this year and we believe they should proceed. We know free and fair elections will facilitate a peaceful transfer of power to a newly elected president.”

Citizens take part in a protest near the police station of Petion Ville after Haitian president Jovenel Moïse was murdered on July 08, 2021 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. (Photo by Richard Pierrin/Getty Images)

For decades, Haiti has seen unrest and presidential assassination attempts. Then-President Jean Bertrand Aristide was the nation’s first democratically-elected president. He was elected in February 1991 and in September of that year, he was ousted for his reforms in what is considered the poorest nation in the western hemisphere. 

Aristide was in exile until 1994 when a threat of U.S. invasion returned him to power. He stepped down two years later after the people felt he could not help ease the country’s problems. Haiti’s political turmoil spans decades, but the assassination of President Moïse marks a new chapter in the island nation’s instability and possibly our country’s ongoing immigration debate.

Earlier this year, theGrio reported on the fight for Temporary Protective Status for Black immigrants. Among a coalition of advocates, Haitian activists made their case for TPS on the political fallout from the 2010 earthquake aftermath. 

During the Trump era, a wave of Haitian immigrants was ousted from the country and stripped of TPS. The Haitian Bridge Alliance successfully pushed for President Joe Biden to reinstate TPS for people still in the country and displaced from the earthquake.

A man holds a Haitian flag
A man holds a Haitian flag (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

“Historically, American presidents have given more favor to Cuban exiles than they have to exiles from Caribbean and African nations,” Congressman Mondaire Jones (D-N.Y.) previously explained to theGrio. “The erasure of Black people from our conversation around a just and humane immigration system in the United States of America is part of a long history of anti-Blackness in this country.”

Black immigrants, in particular, have long felt unheard and unseen in the immigration discourse. But, in the House of Representatives, this stands to change.

Congressman Gregory Meeks, chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, contends many of these race issues as it relates to foreign issues like immigration are human rights issues. 

As a representative of the United States on the international stage, he makes it a point to engage other countries about their human rights problems and account his own experiences as a Black man in the United States. 

”I say to them before they even have a chance, I’m not coming here to tell you that America is superior to you. I’m telling you that we are trying to fix our problems in America still to this day,” Meeks told theGrio. “I can’t sit back knowing the injustices that I have suffered,” he added, “and not speaking up about it.”

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