A Tale of Two Governments: How They Report Illegal Haitian Migration

By David North on August 17, 2010

This is a tale of how two governments, the mighty United States, and the not-so-mighty Bahamas, handle the same story – the apparently increasing illegal migration from Haiti.

If you look at a map, you can see that the quickest way to get from Haiti to the U.S. is through hundreds of miles of Bahamian waters.

On Monday the government of The Bahamas issued a press release saying:

There has been a noticeable increase in the number of Haitian migrants attempting to gain entry illegally into The Bahamas over the past six months and, in particular, during the last two weeks.

Today, if you review the Coast Guard's nationwide listing of its news releases for the period May 27 through August 11 you see not a single mention of Haiti, but there is a hot press release on "Coast Guard marks 220 years of service."

You need to go to the site of a non-governmental publication, Coast Guard News, to get the full news of the interceptions of what are always called "grossly overclouded" sail freighters, full of would-be Haitian illegal immigrants.

My sense is that the Coast Guard and the Bahamian authorities are busily intercepting/rescuing increasingly large numbers of Haitians from the seas, and, in the case of The Bahamas, discussing the subject openly, or in the case of DHS, largely staying mum about it, but not totally suppressing the news either.

Here are some of the events in waters off Haiti that have happened so far this month, according to various sources:

  • August 2, Coast Guard seizes two sailboats carrying 323 Haitians, and returns the migrants to Cap Haitien.

  • August 5, Coast Guard locates and returns 279 Haitians.

  • August 6, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials say that about a dozen Haitians made it to the beaches of Manalapan, Fla..

  • August 7, Coast Guard repatriates 230 Haitians.

  • August 12, Bahamian authorities repatriate 57 Haitians found on a sloop.

  • August 16, Bahamian officials announce increased illegal migration in the last two weeks and promise that: "Persons who are found to be in The Bahamas illegally will be repatriated forthwith."

While most of us do not read the Coast Guard News, its reports indicate that, at the operating level, the organization is pleased with its accomplishments.

The stories, such as this one, always report "once aboard Coast Guard cutters, all migrants receive food, water, shelter and basic medical care." The name of the Coast Guard vessel, in this case the Legare is always mentioned, as is the home port, in this case Portsmouth, Va.

The mainstream media is not paying attention, and the DHS pressies in Washington do not seem to be pushing these stores, but this migration appears to be gathering some steam. And, perhaps, for every ship intercepted, another gets to Florida, or perhaps, sadly, for every one stopped, another sinks.

It is certainly not the time to cut back on the assistance programs that are funding the reconstruction of Haiti.