Contrary to what was intended when a U.S. Coast Guard blockade was launched, the waters between Haiti and Cuba have become a "magnet" for boat people. Just when it seemed the blockade was working, Haitians, fleeing repression and the breakdown of civil order have taken to the boats in such large numbers that Washington has now decided to let many come to Florida.
No country can accept unlimited immigration, but U.S. treatment of the Haitians has been deplorable. U.S. law accords refugees rights to hearings on their claims of persecution once they get to this country, but the Bush administration sought to stop them en route. They were shipped to Guantanamo Naval Station on Cuba and there classified as "economic" rather than "political" refugees -- a fiction that drew hooting derision abroad.
Now, it appears that the interdiction strategy itself has backfired. Some 13,600 Haitians have been sent back to their island homeland out of the 33,700 picked up by Coast Guard ships, but another 8,917 won Immigration and Naturalization Service approval to pursue asylum claims on the U.S. mainland. Earlier, during the 10 years before the anti-democracy coup, only 28 Haitians had ever been allowed in the United States to seek asylum.