Front Cover
 Title Page
 Table of Contents
 Caribbean migration program
 The Haitian economy in historical...
 Geographic and socioeconomic aspects...
 From peasant to migratory farmworker:...

Group Title: Occasional papers ; paper no. 3
Title: Haitian migration and the Haitian economy
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00086802/00001
 Material Information
Title: Haitian migration and the Haitian economy papers
Series Title: Occasional papers
Physical Description: iii, 65 p. : ill. ; 28 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Latortue, Paul R
Rocheleau, Dianne E
Richman, Karen E
University of Florida -- Caribbean Migration Program
Publisher: Center for Latin American Studies, University of Florida
Place of Publication: Gainesville Fla
Publication Date: 1984
Subject: Haitians -- Florida   ( lcsh )
Migrant agricultural laborers -- United States   ( lcsh )
Economic conditions -- Haiti -- 1971-   ( lcsh )
Genre: government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
bibliography   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )
Spatial Coverage: Haiti
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references.
Statement of Responsibility: by Paul R. Latortue, Dianne Rocheleau, Karen E. Richman.
General Note: On cover: Caribbean Migration Program.
General Note: "February 1984."
Funding: Occasional papers (University of Florida. Caribbean Migration Program) ;
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00086802
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: oclc - 10669131

Table of Contents
    Front Cover
        Front Cover
    Title Page
        Title Page 1
        Title Page 2
    Table of Contents
        Page i
    Caribbean migration program
        Page ii
        Page iii
    The Haitian economy in historical perspective
        Page 1
        Page 2
        Page 3
        Page 4
        Page 5
        Page 6
        Page 7
        Page 8
        Page 9
        Page 10
    Geographic and socioeconomic aspects of the recent Haitian migration to South Florida
        Page 11
        Page 12
        Page 13
        Page 14
        Page 15
        Page 16
        Page 17
        Page 18
        Page 19
        Page 20
        Page 21
        Page 22
        Page 23
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    From peasant to migratory farmworker: Haitian migrants in U.S. agriculture
        Page 52
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Full Text

Paper No. 3

Haitian Migration
and the
Haitian Economy

February 1984

Papers by

Paul R. Latortue
Dianne Rocheleau
Karen E. Richman

Center for Latin American Studies
University of Florida
Gainesville, Florida 32611
Helen I. Safa, Director

Paper No. 3

Haitian Migration
and the
Haitian Economy

Copyright, 1984

The Board of Regents

of the

State of Florida





PREFACE Terry L. McCoy . . . . .

Paul R. Latortue

. 1

The Haitian Economy in Historical Perspective .

Dianne Rocheleau

Geographic and Socioeconomic Aspects of
Haitian Migration to South Florida .

the Recent

Karen E. Richman

From Peasant to Migratory Farmworker : Haitian
Migrants in U.S. Agriculture . . .


Paul R. Latortue is a Haitian economist and Director of
the Center for Business Research at the University of Puerto

Dianne Rocheleaucompleted her Ph.D. in geography at the
University of Florida. She is currently on a Rockefeller
Foundation social science research fellowship in agriculture
and rural development in Kenya.

Karen E. Richman is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department
of Anthropology at the University of Virginia. She is now
doing fieldwork in Haiti on a grant from the Inter American


The occasional papers of the Caribbean Migration Program are published
by the Center for Latin American Studies, University of Florida, Gainesville.
Helen I. Safa, Director of the Center, administers the Caribbean Migration
Program and is series editor of the occasional papers. The Caribbean Migration
Program began in January, 1982, with support from the Tinker and Ford Founda-
tions and the University of Florida. The Program's goals are to:
train new scholars in the field of Caribbean Migration
review the existing state of knowledge concerning Caribbean migration
in order to identify priorities for research and action
generate and disseminate research in priority areas of Caribbean
establish collaborative relationships with other scholars and
institutions in the Caribbean and in the United States working
in the area of migration
serve as an integrating mechanism and informational clearinghouse
for research and forums on all aspects of Caribbean migration,
particularly to Florida and the Southeast.
Ca ibbean Migration Program activities include a Visiting Scholars program,
predoct ral fellowships and graduate seminars on various aspects of the Caribbean
and migration. In addition to this monograph on Haitian migration and economy,
the University of Florida Libraries in cooperation with the Center also published
an exte sive Bibliography on Caribbean Migration. The Caribbean Migration Program
Occasional Paper Series includes three other papers as well as a roster of
researchers in the area. The Center also publishes the Amazon Research Papers
prepared under the Amazon Research and Training Program.
For further information write:

Center for Latin American Studies
319 Grinter Hall
University of Florida
Gainesville, Florida 32611

Occasional Paper No. 1
Migration and Caribbean Cultural Identity
Selected Papers from Conference celebrating
the 50th Anniversary of the Center

Occasional Paper No. 2
Caribbean Workers in the Florida Sugar Cane Industry

Occasional Paper No. 3
Haitian Migration and the Haitian Economy

Occasional Paper No. 4
Women and Migration--
Latin America and the Caribbean:
A Selective Annotated Bibliography


This Occasional Paper reflects a fundamental commitment of not only the
Caribbean Migration Program of the Center for Latin American Studies but of
the University of Florida to improve understanding of Haiti. Such a commit-
ment is understandable, given the proximity of this island republic to our
state and the recent wave of Haitian refugees to Florida. However, we believe
that there is more to Haiti than the current wave of "boat people." Haiti is
the oldest independent black nation in the world; it was the second country
in the Western Hemisphere to gain its independence. To help preserve and
perpetuate its distinguished patrimony, University faculty members, working
with Haitian institutions and scholars, are conducting research in the fields
of archeology and natural resource conservation. Other university programs
deal with health and nutrition and, of course, migration. For the past three
years, the Center and the Department of Romance Languages and Literature have
collaborated to offer an intensive summer course in Haitian Creole. The
priority given these activities by the University is evident from the financial
resources committed to them and from the existence of a University-wide
committee to coordinate Haitian projects. I chair that committee.

The contents of Occasional Paper No. 3 originated in 1982. Dr. Latortue
gave his paper at a mini-seminar on Haiti held at the University in July. He
returned a year later as a Visiting Scholar with the Caribbean Migration Pro-
gram. Dr. Rocheleau's paper was done as part of a joint research project
conducted with Florida International University under the State STAR grant
to investigate the impact of immigrants and refugees on Florida. Karen
Richman's paper is derived from her work on Haitians in the domestic migrant
stream. Both Richman's and Rocheleau's papers reflect a CMP commitment to
encourage the work of younger scholars. We sincerely appreciate the efforts
of all three, whose opinions are, of course, theirs and not the Center's.

Terry L. McCoy
Associate Director
Center for Latin American Studies
University of Florida


Paul R. Latortue


In the past decade, Florida, more than any other place in the world, has

felt the impact of Haitian refugees. There is a legitimate need, therefore,

for Floridians to know more about Haiti. The World Bank places Haiti in the

Fourth World, one step below the Third World. Yet, two centuries ago Haiti

was one of the richest colonies in the New World, comparing quite favorably

with the colonies of North America. What are the historical roots of economic

stagnation and decline in Haiti? What are the challenges of the present?

These are the topics to be addressed in this paper.


No one can understand Haiti today without examining the forces at work

throughout the 19th century. Both external and internal forces caused

economic decline in Haiti during this period.

Haiti became an independent country in 1804, 28 years after the U.S.

Declaration of Independence. Haiti was the second New World colony to break

away from Europe. To achieve independence, Haitians fought troops Napoleon

sent to crush the rebellion. These troops had recently won great victories in

Europe. In a sense, the victory of the Haitians is comparable to that of the

Algerians and the Vietnamese in the 20th century. It may not be coincidental

that all three countries were once under French control. However, the Haitian

Revolution was not only a war against colonialism; it was a war against the

institution of slavery. Africans were brought to St. Domingue against their

will and forced to labor under harsh conditions in the sugar cane fields to

produce a commodity Europe wanted at a low price, that capitalists would


produce only with a high profit margin. In overthrowing slavery by force, the

Haitian Revolution represents a significant event in the history of the

Caribbean and the New World.

After Independence, external forces tried to isolate Haiti. Slavery was

a viable institution elsewhere, including the United States. Contrary to

expectations, Haiti did not try to export its revolution. It did help Simon

Boli ar with arms, men, and money when Bolivar took refuge in Haiti.

Hist rians acknowledge that the help Bolivar received was a determining force

in defeating the Spaniards and in establishing the independence of Venezuela

and Colombia. Nevertheless, Haiti lived in constant fear of foreign invasion.

The country maintained high military expenditures, which were detrimental to

its economic development. Haiti several times had to pay heavy indemnities to

prevent the shelling of Port-au-Prince. Haiti waited 20 years and was forced

to pay an indemnity of 150 million gold Francs in five equal installments to

obtain the recognition of its independence from France. On July 3, 1825,

France backed its demand for payment with 30 gunboats in the bay of

Port-au-Prince. Since Haiti did not have the means to pay, the country

borr wed from the French to pay the French. As a result, Haiti simultaneously

had o raise taxes to increase public revenue and decrease its public

expe ditures to pay its debts.

Indeed, these measures had serious consequences for the Haitian economy.

The extraction of a higher saving flow out of an already poor people to pay a

non-productive coloniallyy created) external debt seriously hindered

development efforts. It represented a pure loss of resources, the effects of

which are not limited to the size of the transfer. In the short term, one has

to a count for the negative multiplier effect on the income of the population.

In the long term, there was also the negative impact of a lower internal

investment potential and the effects on the work level of the population.


France also demanded and obtained lower tariffs for French products.

This diverted trade away from American and British suppliers from whom

essential goods had been obtained in the post-revolutionary period. Economic

theory, while often praising trade creation, has always condemned the negative

welfare impact of trade diversion.

Americans wanted trade with Haiti but refused to recognize its

independence. For the United States, accommodation with France and with the

slave-owning South was more important than acknowledgement of the principles

of the Monroe Doctrine. It was at the insistence of U.S. Southerners, that

Bolivar did not invite Haiti to the 1826 Congress in Panama, the first attempt

to unite Latin America. The United States finally recognized the independence

of Haiti in 1862 during Lincoln's presidency.

It would be irresponsible, however, to put all the blame for Haitian

economic underdevelopment on external forces; internal forces have been very

important, too. Development efforts have never been undertaken seriously

despite several plans of action. The class division within Haitian society,

the absence of cultural cohesion, the lack of investment in the productive

sectors, especially agriculture, the policy of not investing in the health and

education of tne masses, and the conflicts between the elite and the middle

class over control of national resources are all factors that must be


One fact in the economic history of Haiti will illustrate the points

outlined above. This is the agrarian reform started under Petion early in the

19th century. Due to that reform, Haiti is today a land of minifundia with

peasant ownership. In terms of social policy and the distribution of wealth,

it appears to have been beneficial. One may wonder, however, why a government

backed by large landowners sponsored land distribution. Several theories have

been advanced. One point to remember is that the Revolution was very recent


and fhat the peasants who had fought in the Revolution were still armed.

Perhaps the ruling mulatto elite were willing to pay this price for

poli ical survival in their competition with King Christophe in the North.

Christophe had adopted a policy of large public landholding. The kingdom of

Chri tophe was economically prosperous, but this cannot be attributed to the

size of landholdings alone. Christophe, as an administrator, was very much

awards of the importance of technological change in production, of education

and ;raining in the acquisition of skills, of the need for work discipline to

boos; productivity and of efficient organization for economic growth. But

Peti n's policies prevailed over Christophe's in the long-run. One positive

consequence though, was that small farmers have produced food rather than the

traditional Caribbean export crops. Food is the first economic necessity, and

food production must come first. Other Caribbean nations are still tied to

the production of sugar for export markets to gain foreign exchange to

purchase food. The Caribbean countries always lose in this exchange because

of the wide fluctuations in the price of sugar and the unfavorable secular

trends in the terms of trade.

This fundamental change in the economy of Haiti deprived the elite of

important income bases: land ownership and the export marketing of sugar. To

establish a new income base, the elite sought a firmer control of the State

and used its taxation power to extract income from the producing peasants.

This model has prevailed as different elite groups vie for control of the

gove nment, and it continues to the present time.

The use of government revenues to maintain the elite distorts the true

funcXion of public finances. The purpose of taxation in Haiti has ceased to

be the promotion of the common good. The government does not see development

of the country as its duty. The government even passively allowed erosion to

dete iorate the land resource base. Haiti is mountainous. The increasingly


intensive use of the land combined with the cutting of trees for energy

requirements has created a severe soil erosion problem which affects

subsistence and cash crop production.

With the decline of sugar in the 19th century, coffee became the chief

source of foreign exchange. Coffee plantations have also been allowed to

deteriorate. The systematic replacement of old trees does not occur. The

peasants do not invest in their coffee fields because 80 percent of the income

from exported coffee is siphoned off by the Haitian government and foreign

marketeers in Port-au-Prince.


By the end of the 19th century, the economy of Haiti had deteriorated

significantly. The country was not willing to place in power men who would

try to repair the damage. Jean Price Mars has documented how Antenor Firmin

was prevented from attaining the Presidency in 1902. Price Mars writes

(1964:10, p.338), "great popularity contributed to his failure." The elite

"backed Nord Alexis, thought to be the only personality able to place an

obstacle on Fermin's way to triumph" (1964:10, p. 229). The political

situation became increasingly unstable between 1908 and 1915. In 1915, four

governments rose and fell. The violent fall of Vilbrum Guillaume Sam created

the pretext for U.S. military intervention in Haiti. Seen in long-term

perspective, this intervention served to prevent a resolution of the Haitian

systemic crisis. Short-term gains produced through the reform of the

bureaucracy and the introduction of some rural programs were quickly lost.

The U.S. intervention consolidated the control of the army and the elite.

Lands were removed from peasant ownership and food production and turned over

to expatriate agricultural firms producing cash crops for export. Some of

these crops created great environmental damage to the land. Peasants were


offered jobs on U.S. owned sugar plantations in Cuba and the Dominican

Republic. They sold their land to finance their migration. Haitian labor

helped U.S. expansion into sugar production in the Caribbean. The crisis of

today was foreshadowed in 1915.

The post-intervention period was marked by the rise of the black middle

class and its struggles with the mulatto elite to gain control of the

government. Jean Jacques Honorat points out that the black middle class came

from that part of the peasantry which became urbanized. The black middle

class made possible the 1946 revolution that took power away from the mulatto

elite. This power shift introduced some important reforms including labor

laws, minimum wage legislation, and the expansion of educational opportunities

at home and abroad. Education was considered the way to qualify for

government bureaucratic jobs, not the way to improve the productive

possibilities of the country. Again, the potential was there, but never



Dr. Franqois Duvalier came to power in 1957 with the support of the

blacks who were still largely barred from the government because of lack of

education and rural origins. Once in power, however, Duvalier quickly forgot

his promises of development and joos. Instead he concentrated on removing his

political opposition with the aid of his private militia, the Tontons

Maco tes. The economic situation went from bad to worse; as tourism stopped,

foreign aid disappeared, and taxes increased. Then the intellectuals and the

middle-class abandoned the country when Duvalier declared himself President

for life in 1964.

U.S. relations with Haiti warmed in 1969 when Richard Nixon became

President. Communist student groups, trained in Europe, were discovered and


crushed by Duvalier's government. Duvalier was hailed by the Nixon

Administration for his devotion to the fight against communism in Latin

America. United States aid to Haiti resumed and foreign investment increased.

After the smooth transition from Duvalier to his son in 1971, U.S. firms

became even more interested in setting up factories in Haiti. Multilateral

banks such as the Interamerican Development Bank loaned Jean-Claude large sums

of money. I have demonstrated elsewhere (Latortue 1983:5) how the external

public debt of Haiti increased seven-fold in the 1970s.

The gross national product grew in the 1970s at a rate of five percent a

year in real terms. This is a major advance in comparison to the negative

output and investment growth during the 1960s. Unfortunately, food production

decreased by ten percent over the decade. Decreasing rural income and

increasing job opportunities in factories near Port-au-Prince created large

scale internal migration. But urban unemployment increased by a larger margin

than urban employment.

As food production declined during the 1970s the cost of living rose.

Inflation became an important problem. Salaries, especially those of public

employees, did not increase; real salaries declined. The newly built

factories, which paid $2.80 a day in 1982, are paying a lower rate in real

wages than the minimums legislated in the 1940s. The only non-elite Haitians

who were able to increase, or even keep constant their standard of living,

were those receiving remittances from migrant family members. Remittances into

Haiti today are believed to De larger than aid received from any single


Haitian migration, however, must not be seen solely in terms of

economics. There are political phenomena behind these economic trends.

Migration to the United States started Dooming in 1972, one year after the

successful transition to power of Jean-Claude Duvalier. This transition


destroyed the hope that things would change for the better. The middle class

migrated when Duvalier proclaimed himself President for Life in 1964. The

poor have now lost hope that the government will improve the situation.

The international donor agencies are also losing patience with

Jean-Claude. The International Monetary Fund has publicly complained about

the mismanagement of development projects, the corrupt accounting practices,

and the disappearance of foreign exchange with no explanation (Anderson



The most important thing to be done is to change the Haitian government

by replacing the corrupt Duvalier regime. This is not a sufficient condition

for progress, but it is a necessary condition. The regime is incompatible

with economic progress.

Will the Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI), proposed by President Reagan,

offer any real hope for economic development? No. Instead, the CBI will

create more migration and more trade imDalance. The CBI is capable of

bringing growth in the short term only. With its emphasis on foreign

investment and low wage manufacturing for trade, it will make Caribbean

countries producers of commodities its peoples will never buy. Production for

export is usually located near ports, to minimize transportation costs. This

in effect means that jobs will be concentrated in the capital city, thus

increasing internal migration and urban unemployment. When peasants realize

that the probability of getting a job in the city remains low, they will turn

to international migration. Indeed, the migration of Haitians to Florida

could partially have been caused by the factory jobs created near

Port-au-Prince in the early 1970s.

The Caribbean Basin Initiative's emphasis on imported inputs and

repatriation of profits is bound to create payment difficulties. If the

agricultural sector deteriorates and food is imported, a vicious balance of

payments circle will result. Haiti must first put its agricultural sector in

order. There is also a need for manufacturing for the local market using

local agricultural inputs. The production of clothing and shoes can be

accomplished with good local organization. Haiti has an important potential

tourist industry to secure foreign exchange. The country's rich history and

indigenous culture, its famed artistic productions, the hospitality of its

people, and a low crime rate all augur well for the development of a strong

tourist industry.

Above all, the social welfare should receive effective organization and

leadership. Education and health can be quickly organized and people trained.

Over the past 15 years, two out of three nurses have left the country.

Progress in housing will take more time as this sector absorbs great

quantities of capital badly needed in the productive sectors.

Can these goals be accomplished? Yes, they could be accomplished because

Haitians have not lost the will to work hard and to sacrifice today so that

tomorrow will be better. However, the average Haitian needs some assurance

that the social system is not out to get him, as it has over the past two

centuries. This task will require great political leadership.


Adrien, Antoine. Cours d'histoire d'Haiti 1804-1915 Petit
Seminaire College St. Martial.

Ancerson, Jack. "Los manejos de Baby Doc". El Mundo March 28,
1981. p. 11A.

Gaillard, Roger. Les blancs d6barauent: Premier ecrasement du
Cacoisme Imprimerie Le Natal, Port-au-Prince. 1981.

Girault, Christian. Le commerce du cafe en Haiti Editions du
Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Paris.

Latortue, Paul. "The external debt situation of Haiti" in A. Jorge,
J. Salazar and R. Higonnet (eds.); Foreign Debt and Latin
American Economic Development Perganon Press, New York,
1983. pp. 155-161.

Lofredo, Gino. "Transitional Subcontracting: An Assessment of the
Impact of Export Oriented Assembly Industries on Social
and Economic Development in Haiti." School of Advanced
International Studies, Jonns Hopkins University, 1980.

Lun ahi, Mats. Peasants and Poverty: A Study of Haiti St.
Martin's Press, New YorK. 1979.

Moya Pons, Frank. La Dominaci6n Haitiana 1822-1844 Universidad
Cat6lica Madre y Maestra, Santiago, R.D., 3rd ed. 1978.

Nicholls, David. From Dessalines to Duvalier Cambridge Univ.
Press, New York and London. 1979.

Price Mars, Jean. Antenor Firmin Imprimerie Advertiste, Port-
Sau-Prince, Haiti. 1964.

Roumain, Jacques. Gouverneurs de la Ros6e Les editeurs francais
reunis, Paris. 1946.

Verdien, Ernst. Perspectives Haitiennes: Essai socio-economic
(C.E.C.I.), Montreal. May 1981.

Zuvekas, Clarence. Agricultural Development in Haiti AID,
Washington, D.C. May 1978.



Dianne Rocheleau


The State of Florida is faced with an increasing number of immigrants,

both legal and undocumented, from the Caribbean. While millions of people

from this region previously went to New York and the Northeastern United

States, the greater Miami area has become a major port of entry and an area of

resettlement for Caribbean migrants. In addition to the approximately 600,000

Cuban refugees who have settled in the area since 1959, smaller migration

flows from Jamaica, the Dominican Republic and Haiti have added to Miami's

Caribbean population. That population increased dramatically when

approximately 120,000 Cuban refugees and an estimated 80,000 Haitian refugees

entered South Florida between January 1979 and June 1981. The Hispanic

population now constitutes 40% of the total population in the greater Miami

area, witn the "white Anglo" population accounting for less than 45% (State of

Florida Dept. of Labor, 1982; Metro. Dade Cty., 1981: 1-3; Boswell, 1981).

The 1980 Refugee Act did not foresee or address the problem of the United

States being the country of first asylum. The sheer combined volume of the

recent migration of Cuban and Haitian refugees became a problem outside the

scope of the new law (Stepick, 1981; Clark, et al. 1981; Metro. Dade Cty.,

1981). Tne State of Florida has been beset by severe short-range problems in

providing social services and employment to these recent arrivals (Bowen,

1981; State of Florida HRS, 1982; Metro. Dade Cty, 1981). The state

administration is also troubled by a lack of information to guide state policy

and to direct lobbying efforts towards more favorable federal policies that

impact on the migration issue.

The Cuoan and Haitian entrants came from two very distinct environments,

and for different immediate causes, though both groups responded to a mixture

of political and economic pressures to move (Bach, et al. 1981; Boswell,

1982; Rivera, 1980; Clark, et al. 1981; Sklar, 1980). The case of the

Mariel migrants has been ably summarized by Sklar (1980) and Rivera (1980).

Tre case of the Haitian migrants will be presented in this paper. An

explanation of the forces that determined the scope and direction of the

Haitian immigration, and the 1979-81 migration in particular, should help

inform policy decisions, while a demographic profile of the immigrant group

and its distribution within the state provides a description of the client

group for state and federal services. This paper will present an analysis of

socioeconomic conditions in Haiti, a demographic description of the migrants,

and a discussion of the distribution patterns in the receiving area. Also

included is a discussion of relevant contrasts between Cuban and Haitian



Explanations of migration generally pose tne question of the "decision to

migrate" (Ch. Wood, 1981). The existence of economic or political motives for

migrations is the major determinant of the legal status of the immigrants

already in the United States (Boswell, 1982; Lieberman, 1982; Walsh, 1981;

Maingot, 1981; Stepick, 1981). It is probably the first question posed to

most of the entrants processed through the INS (Immigration and Naturalization

Service) reception and detention facilities in Miami (Bach, et al. 1981).

Beyond the more immediate implications for the migrants themselves and the

State of Florida, the answer to this question, or its redefinition, has

important implications concerning U.S. international policy and foreign

investment patterns and their impact on the State of Florida.

Ironically it is exactly this question of the motive for migration which

joined these two migrant groups in the legal category of "Cuban-Haitian

Entrants." The official hospitality extended to the Cuban "Marielitos" in the

Spring of 1980 contrasted sharply with prior and current treatment of Haitian

"boatpeople" (Boswell, 1981; Stepick, 1981; Nichols, 1982). This differential

treatment provoked charges of racial discrimination against the INS by

minority, civil libertarian, and Haitian advocate groups. As a result, even

prior to the favorable decision for the Haitian group in a class action suit

brought against the INS, the Carter administration announced that Cuban and

Haitian refugees would be treated as equals. On June 20, 1980, the State

department created the category of "Cuban-Haitian Entrant, Status Pending,"

which was eventually granted to all Cubans arriving between April 1 and

October 10, 1980, and to .all Haitians in INS proceedings prior to October 10,

1980. Those entering after October 10, 1980 are parolees subject to

deportation. Both groups of entrants were subsequently given conditional,

limited benefits of refugee status, pending review of claims on a case by case

basis (Stepick, 1981; Clark, et al. 1981).

To consider the individual's "decision to migrate," and its motives, is

very limiting, since it implies that migration flows are the cumulative result

of individual decisions based on a rational evaluation of the costs and

benefits of moving (Ch. Wood, 1981). It has been convincingly argued by some

researchers (Stepick, 1981; Ch. Wood, 1981; Cardenas and Flores, 1977;

Bustamente, 1975) that more attention should be paid to the structural

determinants of migration. When viewed as a large scale phenomenon, in which

the unit of analysis is the whole migrant stream, migration can be analyzed as

a part of the broader socioeconomic and political system. As such it can be

explained in a historical context (Wood, 1981). Whether or not this

perspective is accepted as the best approach to explaining migration, it

clearly contributes to the understanding of conflicting forces at the national

and international level that provide the impetus for migration.

It is widely conceded that people in both migrant groups responded to a

combination of economic and political pressures. Economic extortion backed by

force and political authority is widespread in rural areas of Haiti (Boswell,

1931; Stepick, 1981; Dee, 1967; Cornevin and Burneau, 1980; Heinl and Heinl,

19 8; Cnassagne, 1977; Pierre-Charles, 1978; Maguire, 1979). INS decisions

against Haitian entrants have so far tended to interpret this as an economic

motive rather than a political one (Boswell, 1981; Stepick, 1981; Walsh,


The case by case review of individual decisions, now in progress, may

sh d light on the immediate causes of these recent migration flows. However,

a brief survey of the conditions in the source area, and the historical events

leading up to the respective migrations, may better explain the individual

cases by illustrating the constraints operating on them. This level of

analysis can also provide a firmer basis for changes in U.S. foreign and

immigration policies and investment patterns (Keely, 1981) that will continue

to affect migration to Florida over the long term.


Despite being the second republic in the New World, and the first black

republic, Haiti has experienced a violent history under a series of harsh

dictatorships, interrupted by brief periods of democratic rule (Heinl, 1978).

The abuse of power by military and government authorities has been cited by

some as an example of "predatory militarism" (Dee, 1967). Power has been

sporadically contested between two small elites, with little regard for the


needs or rights of the majority (Manigat, 1974; Arcelin et al. 1978;

Fortune, 1976). Since Independence the great mass of the population has

existed outside the mainstream of the country's economic and political life

(Dee, 1967), a fact which has been reinforced by the use of an official

language (French) which is largely unintelligible to the Creole-speaking

majority (Maguire, 1978).

Haiti also bears the burden of being one of the 30 poorest countries in

the world; it has the lowest per capital income in Latin America with the

margin separating it from the next poorest country continuing to widen

(Cornevin and Bruneau, 1980; Stepick, 1981). The situation is further

aggravated by the top-heavy distribution of the wealth: 0.8% of the population

has 44.8% of the wealth (Stepick, 1981; Morris, 1979; Moore, 1972). The high

population density (highest in Latin America) also presents serious

difficulties, given the major percentage (74.0%) of the work force dependent

upon agriculture. The traditional quantitative indices of prevailing

socioeconomic conditions in the country (Table 1) indicate widespread poverty,

malnutrition, and under or unemployment. A large segment of the rural

population faces harsh deprivation, including starvation and malnutrition,

caused by environmental deterioration and the expropriation of agricultural

lands by local para-military officials (the "Tontons Macoutes") (Antonin,

1979; Maguire, 1979; Stepick, 1981). Urban dwellers have also experienced

severe hardships, particularly in times of food shortages. Nationwide crises

in food, water and energy supplies in 1977 provoked widespread public unrest

(Arcelin et al. 1978; Benjamin, 1975; Manigat, 1975).

The economic indices of the last 30 years show an increase in overall

production that has not kept pace with inflation. A summary of economic

growth, by sectors, shows an instability in export production, with marked

changes in 1979 (Table 2). Such changes reflect environmental, socioeconomic,


Haiti: National Statistical Summary

Population Density
% Population Urban
Annual Growth Rate of
Birth Rate/1000
% Below Poverty Level
Avg. Income Rural
National Debt


27,750 Km2
180 Km

Death Rate 14.5 1
Infant Mortality/1000 199.1 1
Child Death Rate (Aged 1-4) 21.0% 3
% Undernourished 87.0% 4
Population per Physician 5,940 3
Labor Force: Agriculture 74.0% 3
Industry 7.0%
Services 19.0%
% of Labor Force in Salaried Jobs 9.0% 3
% of Labor Force in Assembly Industries 4.0% 3

. Literacy 25.0% 1

Land Use

otal Area 27,750 Km2
cultivated 8,700 Km2
asture 5,300 Km2
orest 2,000 Km2
on-Cultivable 8,700 Km

Thus, over 40% of the salaried labor force is in assembly industries.
*Participation rates in the labor force (for women and men) declined
from 1950-1971.

i. Cornevin, 1980.
2. O.A.S., 1981.
3. Stepick, 1979.

4. IBRD, 1979.
5. Zuvekas, 1978.
6. Maguire, 1979.



Economic and Population Growth Rates over Time

Per Capita GDP, in



1980 US $ (O.A.S., 1981)


Growth Rate of per Capita GDP, % Growth (O.A.S., 1981)

1975-78 1979
3.12 -0.07%

GDP% Growth Rates, by Sector (O.A.S., 1980)

Elec., Gas, Water
Financial Svcs.

Tax Revenue

21.52 14.24 6.12 22.42

Value of Exports


* Stagnation and/or setbacks in 1979-1980

in mining and










and political influences, although the internal political unrest from 1977 to

1979 (NACLA, 1979; Arcelin et al. 1978; Antonin, 1979) is probably the

single most important cause of production losses or temporary stagnation of

some dynamic sectors such as manufacturing and mining.

The economy depends primarily upon agricultural production, including

coffee for export. Agriculture is particularly vulnerable to drought and

hurricanes. Even under normal conditions coffee yields are extremely low, yet

heavily taxed, discouraging production in some areas (Zuvekas, 1978; Stepick,

1931). Subsistence production is inhibited by environmental and socioeconomic

constraints (Eckholm, 1976). High population pressure and a reliance on slash

and burn agriculture and wood fuels have led to almost complete deforestation

(Raeder-Roitsch and Zenny, 1975; Franklin and Snyder, 1975; Lothier et al ,

1974; Ewel, 1977; Berry and Musgrove, 1977; H. Wood, 1963; Palmer, 1977;

Wainwright, 1976). This situation, combined with rugged topography, shallow

soils of low fertility, and variable but intense rainfall, has led to low

yields and high erosion rates (Zuvekas, 1978). The landscape is characterized

by widespread erosion features, with little evidence of infrastructural or

la or investments to reclaim land. The lack of investment in the means of

production (land and natural resources) can be attributed to landlessness or

insecurity in land ownership (Maguire, 1979; Zuvekas,1978; Stepick, 1981) and

to a lack of access to inputs other than labor.

Of the 7.0% of the work force employed in industry, over half work in the

assembly plants for the lowest wages in Latin America (Cornevin and Bruneau,

1980; Stepick, 1981). For example, female garment workers earn $2.20/day.

Twenty-two thousand worKers have jobs in the 300 assembly enterprises

co centrated in Port-au-Prince (Cornevin, 1980). Another 6,000 jobs are

distributed among 15 shops scattered throughout the rest of the country. The

nature of the industries and the concentration of shops in the capital has

widened the gap between urban and rural incomes yet created few linkages with

the local economy and no upward mobility for the few employed.

Haitians working abroad contribute a large portion of total annual

income, directly and indirectly. At present, remittances of the approximately

one million Haitians living and working abroad help support the faltering

economy. (Nicholls, 1979; Segal, 1975; Dorville, 1975; Joseph, 1976;

Rotberg, 1971). Most of the remittances come from the United States and

Canada. Haitians working in the United States send $80 million a year back to

Haiti, supporting an average of 5 persons each back home. This income

constitutes 5% of the total GNP, equaling the total revenues from the coffee

crop, the nation's major agricultural export (Boswell, 1982). Remittances are

formally and informally taxed to support the state.

Haitian laborers have been crossing the border into the Dominican

Republic since the mid 19th century to work on sugar plantations and private

estates. Under American occupation from 1915 to 1935 both seasonal and

permanent migration of agricultural and unskilled labor was encouraged to

relieve pressure on the economy (Rivera, 1980). Migration to the Dominican

Republic increased, and new migrant streams developed between Haiti and Cuba,

the Bahamas, and the United States. Migration became more difficult during

the Depression, but then resumed after World War II.

The Dominican government through the state sugar corporation, pays $8 per

capital to the Haitian government for the approximately 20,000 workers who

enter legally each year as seasonal/contract labor (Cornevin and Bruneau,

1980). Payments are also made for "recruitment costs" and from deductions

from each worker's wages. These workers, mostly sugar cane cutters, perform

exhausting work for piecework wages, averaging $2.50/day. Conditions are

extremely difficult, yet Haitian workers compete keenly for the limited number

of contract jobs offered each year. Beyond contracted labor, the majority of


the large Haitian population in the Dominican Republic (estimated to be at

least 250,000) are illegal migrants who earn barely enough to subsist and

contribute little directly to the Haitian GNP.

Cheap labor, both legal and illegal, is a major export from Haiti, with

obvious immediate benefits to the government, to individual officials and for

the demographic situation in Haiti. The overriding motive for migration is

clearly not the "pull" of attractive living and working conditions elsewhere,

at least not in the Dominican Republic. Rather an overwhelming "push" from

Haiti better explains the migration. The political situation in Haiti

preceding the 1979-81 migration will be described in the next section.


The Haitian political system is characterized by an atmosphere of

un redictability which maintains a constant insecurity and anxiety among the

population (NACLA, 1979; Cornevin and Bruneau, 1980; Le Petit Samedi Soir,

19 9; Arcelin, 1978). The regime of Francois Duvalier ("Papa Doc") 1957-1971,

a ruthless, corrupt, centralized dictatorship, was replaced after his death by

his son, Jean-Claude ("Baby Doc"), who became "President for Life."

The growth in the manufacturing sector in Haiti reflects the

intensification of foreign penetration since 1971. Under Jean-Claude, Haiti

has Decome increasingly dependent upon American aid and capital investment.

This dependence made the Haitian government more vulnerable to pressure from

the Carter administration. In August 1977, a State Department initiative

pressed for "liberalization" and respect for human rights in Haiti. From 1977

th ough 1979 the State Department continued to push for relaxation of

restrictions on the press and opposition and non-official political parties

(NACLA, 1979). Progress was slow but some changes were made during the

earlier part of this period, including the proliferation of moderate political


organizations and non-officiai newspapers and news sources (Cornevin and

Bruneau, 1980; NACLA, 1979; Nichols, 1979).

A sharp conflict developed between two elements of the ruling class in

Haiti: the traditional "Duvalieristes," who controlled the feudal mode of

production in the countryside, and the "Jean-Claudistes," who were tied to the

mining and manufacturing sectors dominated by foreign capital (NACLA, 1979).

By early 1979, the more technocratic "Jean-Claudistes" were in ascendant

position but the conservative Old Guard still controlled the Tontons Macoutes

in the countryside. The organization founded by Jean-Claude to promote

"Jean-Claudisme" and "liberalization" came into conflict with the more

traditional institutions represented by the Tontons Macoutes. The spoils

system was firmly entrenched in the countryside, with local tax collectors at

liberty to engage in legalized and semi-legalized extortion of the peasants in

return for loyal support and enforcement of government policy (Dee, 1967;

Stepick, 1981; NACLA, 1979). The Tontons Macoutes have often engaged in such

extortion as well as in coercion by force against the populace for political

and economic ends.

During February 1979, fraudulent elections brought the conservatives a

decisive victory and touched off an overt confrontation between the Old Guard,

the Jean-Claudistes, and the political opposition. In May 1979, official

censorship of plays and other media provoked widespread protest among the

political opposition and the press, culminating in the largest open protest

against a government decree in the history of Duvalier rule. During this

period the United States withheld aid and exerted strong pressure for

political and fiscal reforms. By midsummer three Christian Democratic parties

had emerged and the U.S. Embassy was calling for new legislative elections and

suggesting that a seven year (finite) term for Jean-Claude's presidency be

mandated by the new legislature (NACLA, 1979).


In the face of mounting pressure from both sides Jean-Claude responded by

closing ranks with the conservatives to restrain the liberalization process.

He reinstituted censorship of the press. A spontaneous meeting of the

political opposition organized by Sylvio Claude in Port-au-Prince, in October

1980, brought an immediate and harsh wave of repression. Political party

leaders and over 200 others were arrested (Cornevin and Bruneau, 1980).

Journalists and opposition leaders disappeared, were jailed, or expelled.

Many sought political asylum in Venezuela, while less controversial figures

joined an established group of journalists and professionals in exile in the

Do inican Republic.

By late 1980, the new political opposition was largely in exile or in

prison, the press was muzzled, and the major cabinet level shake-up had

brought the conservatives once again into a position of dominance within the

government as well as in the countryside. Duvalier confirmed this when he

announced that the Tontons Macoutes would continue to be "the major

re resentative of government authority" at the local level (NACLA, 1979;

Co nevin and Bruneau, 1980).

For many Haitians, 1980 signalled a return to the old line in Haiti,

including official sanction and support of the Tontons Macoutes. The shift

toward the Old Guard meant an intensification of the atmosphere of insecurity

and fear. During the period immediately before the crackdown the newspaper Le

Petit Samedi Soir published a public opinion poll in which 93% of those

surveyed said that they did not feel safe in Haiti (Cornevin and Bruneau,

1980; Stepick, 1981). People interviewed in the countryside placed a high

pr ority on "justice" and on development and social change goals (Maguire,

1979; Zuvekas, 1978).

Thus as we can see, the impetus to leave Haiti has come from a

co bination of related political and socioeconomic conditions, augmented by

natural disasters (drought and hurricanes). Nevertheless, the origins,

destinations, and fate of Haitian migrants prior to 1979 differ from the

recent migration, as will De seen in the following section.


The demographic characteristics of the Haitian migrants who arrived in

New York and Miami before 1979 are markedly different from the group which

came to South Florida during the 1979-81 migration. The earlier group

depended more heavily on legal exodus, by airplane, from Port-au-Prince. An

unusually high proportion (50%) of the pre-1979 Haitian migrants were women

(Buchanan, 1979; NACLA, 1979) leaving from uroan areas (Weidman, 1978). Women

found it easier to obtain temporary or "tourist" visas. Their relatives

pooled their funds to send them to the United States to seek work as domestics

or in garment factories. In many cases these women overstayed their legal

period as tourists to become illegal migrants (Buchanan, 1979; NACLA, 1979).

A 1977 survey Dy the University of Miami Health Ecology Team found that

89% of the Haitian immigrants interviewed were urban dwellers prior to

migration (Weidman, 1978). Most of these migrants were from lower income

groups and had worked in manufacturing or in the informal service sector in

Port-au-Prince. The pre-1979 Haitian migrants also included a large segment

of middle and upper class intellectuals, professionals, businessmen, and

active members of the political opposition who tended to settle in New York

City (Boswell, 1982; Safa, 1982; Buchanan, 1979; Antonin, 1979). Rotberg

(1981) estimates that 80% of Haitian professionals were living outside of the

country in 1970.

For the rural and poorest sectors of the population between 1972 and

1979, the Bahama Islands presented a strong "intervening opportunity"

(Boswell, 1982) between Haiti and the United States. While the migrants'


reception varied with cycles of political and economic change within the

Bahamas, the shorter trip in partially protected waters instead of the long

and perilous journey across open water to South Florida, favored the Bahamas

as a destination (Boswell, 1982).

Thus the poor, rural, and predominately male group was already in the

migrant stream in the early 1970's, but it was diverted away from Florida

toward the Banamas. The closing of this option by Bahamian authorities and

the expulsion of migrants already settled in the Bahamas, led to tne diversion

of subsequent migration by sea to the United States. The secondary migration

of evicted or threatened groups in the Bahamas accounts for a large proportion

of the Haitian entrant population in Florida, with estimates ranging up to 60%

(Boswell, 1982).


Rural Haitians entering Florida directly, or via the Bahamas, during the

past ten years have come primarily from the northern part of Haiti

(approximately 70%), with less from the central region and even fewer from the

south. The North and Northwest are the rural areas of highest population

density in the country and the most unequal distribution of land (Haiti, IHS,

1955; Zuvekas, 1978). In 1950 the average population density had already

reached 341 persons/sq.km, with an average of 2.0 hectares (5.25 acres) of

cultivated land per household or 0.5 hectares (1.215 acres) per person (H.

ood, 1963). Since that time the population has nearly doubled (O.A.S.,

1981). In the more arid extreme Northwest the pressure on the land is even

more acute, with even shorter fallow periods and an extremely variable

rainfall pattern (FAO, 1969; Zuvekas, 1978). The vast majority of the labor

force (86%) is employed in agriculture or fishing. Throughout the region the

people are dependent on local food production (H. Wood, 1963).

The region has a long history of migration. It has experienced a series

of boom and bust economic cycles under various plantation crops and periodic

droughts (Palmer, 1977; H. Wood, 1963). Since 1870, small farmers and

landless laborers have migrated seasonally and permanently to the Dominican

Republic, especially during droughts or economic crises, where they have

settled in the more sparsely populated, forested mountains or worked on

plantations nearby (Joseph, 1976; Palmer, 1977). After 1974, deportation of

Haitians from the Dominican border zone increased, putting intensifying

pressure on the Northwest. In 1975 and 1977 two major droughts caused

widespread crop failure and suffering (Zuvekas, 1978). The impetus for

migration to the U.S. from the Northwest was very strong in the 1970's,

because of the lack of alternative migration options and the increasing

population pressure in the area.


The 1979-81 migration cannot be attributed to a single cause, but must be

explained by several factors. The U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service

(INS) sharply decreased the number of tourist visas granted, and Canada, the

Dominican Republic, and the Bahamas adopted more stringent entry requirements

and expulsion policies. The continuing impact of droughts and land

expropriation in the rural Northwest combined with the sharp declines in

mineral and manufacturing production and heightened political repression

during the 1979 "election" year. The destruction wrought by hurricane Allen

in the South further swelled the migrant stream between August and October,

1980 (Figure 1) (Boswell, 1982; NACLA, 1979).

The arrival of Haitian migrants in South Florida who earlier would have

gone to the Bahamas, and of those expelled from the islands, preceded, then

coincided, with the arrival of the migrants from the port of Mariel, Cuba.

\ Areas of Land Seizures.

I ] Points of Departure.
Haitian Source Areas for Recent Migration to Florida.

FIGURE 1. Haitian Source Areas for Recent Migration to Florida

The subsequent policy shift by the U.S. government to extend temporary legal

status to both Cuban and Haitian groups, provided an immediate additional

incentive for undocumented or harassed Haitians in the Bahamas to go to


The migrants coming directly from Haiti in small overcrowded boats were

desperate and willing to risk their lives under perilous conditions. The

boats were sometimes built by the passengers themselves, and many never

completed the journey over the open seas (Boswell, 1982; Stepick, 1981). As

the migration continued, an alternative passage emerged based on the use of

larger commercial vessels or "motherships" which dropped small launches off

the Florida coast. Migration became a lucrative enterprise. It was made even

more profitable by the collaboration of ship captains, their agents, the

Tontons Macoutes, and other officials who took peasant land in payment for

passage (Boswell, 1982; Stepick, 1981). This further concentrated

landholdings (particularly in the Northwest) and left the migrants and their

families completely dependent upon the income the migrants earned in the

United States. The alternative for those who remained was share-cropping or

day labor on the newly amassed larger holdings.

The flow of Haitian migrants by boat has virtually stopped since the

implementation of interdiction of suspected Haitian vessels on the high seas,

and renewal of enforcement by Haitian officials against illegal departures by

sea. Known entries of Haitians documented by the INS show a drastic increase

in 1980 over previous years, then a dramatic drop in 1981 following the

interdiction effort (Figure 2).


Immigration and Naturalization Service data on all known entrants (Metro

Dade Cty., 1981: 6) shows a male to female ratio of approximately 7 to 3 and a



FIGURE 2. The Known Entries of Haitians Documented by the I.N.S.

1978 1979 1980 1981

very small proportion of children under 18, particularly in the Haitian group

(Table 3). This is in marked contrast to earlier Haitian migration, in which

women were over represented (Buchanan, 1979; NACLA, 1979), and also to prior

Cuban migrations, in which family groups predominated. The Haitians are in

their "peak childbearing and working years" (Metro Dade Cty., 1981: 15),

whereas the Cuban entrant group is somewhat older and has shown lower

fertility rates among the women of childbearing age.

Recent Haitian entrants are more economically marginal and unskilled

compared to their predecessors and recent Cuban entrants (Table 3). Recent

Haitian entrants also contrast sharply in the percentages of rural versus

urban dwellers. The pre-1979 migrants were over 80% of urban origin (Weidman,

1978) while the recent group is predominantly rural. The Mariel group, like

the Haitians, tended to be younger, predominantly male, and more likely to be

single than the prior migrants from Cuba. They are also less educated, less

skilled and less likely to be bilingual than their predecessors (Clark, et al.

,1981). The Mariel group was also characterized by a proportionally higher

number of blacks than previous migrant groups from Cuba. These

characteristics strongly influence their prospects for assimilation and

economic mobility in the United States (Safa, 1982).

The overall difference in size, affluence, and influence between the

existing Haitian and Cuban communities in South Florida suggests potential

divergence of the effects of kinship network assistance on the legal and

economic status of the two entrant groups. The large and powerful Cuban

enclaves already established in Miami and Tampa provides a potentially strong

support group (Portes, et al. 1982). While race and class may present

obstacles to full acceptance of recent Cuban entrants by prior Cuban migrants,

the possibility of securing employment, housing and training is greatly

improved by tne size and the economic and political status of the existing


rom Sample at Cash Assistance Program, Dade County 1980





% Female

% Black % White
=20 64-88

Age Average
% younger than 25
% 25-44
% 45-64
% older than 65
% older than 18,
younger than 35

Marital Status

35.2 yrs

% Male % Female
46 54 *

% Black

% White

28.6 yrs.


Married/Common Law
Single/Never Married
Pregnancy Rate Among Women



% Population

Some Elementary
6th Grade
Some Secondary
Finished Second.


% Population


College 10
(Metro. Dade Cty., 1981: 6,15)

*(INS data:70:30) The samples taken at service census are biased, since there
are more females reporting for aid to dependent children and for pre- and
post-natal care.

% Male

enclave. The Haitians, however, more rapidly saturated the absorptive

capacity of the small Haitian community in Miami, then proceeded to disperse.

The small size and economic and political powerlessness of the Haitian enclave

in Miami seems to be related to this dispersed distribution pattern and

contrasts with the Cuban pattern of diffusion from a large and powerful

enclave and gradual enlargement of its zone of influence (Portes, et al. ,

1982; Wilson and Portes, 1980; Wilson and Martin, 1982).


By January of 1981 over 100,000 (80%) of the approximately 125,000 Cuban

entrants, and roughly 22,500 (70%) of the 32,000 Haitian entrants known to INS

had settled in Dade County, Florida (Metro. Dade Cty., 1981). Since INS

estimates that only 40% of the Haitian entrants are documented, the estimated

total number of Haitian entrants in Dade County is 56,000. Other estimates

based on INS documents place 92% (approximately 74,000) of all Haitian

entrants within the State of Florida, with the majority in Miami and


Estimates of the distribution of the total entrant population within and

outside the State of Florida vary substantially but all concur that the Cuban

entrants are concentrated primarily in South Florida, with the majority in

Dade County. Many of those originally resettled in other states have also

returned to South Florida (Nichols, 1982; Metro Dade Cty., 1981; Miami SMSA,


Recent data on the use of state services, by county, by entrant group,

give some indication of the distribution of each group within the state

(Tables 4,5) (State of Florida DHRS, 1982). The concentration of both groups

in Dade County is clearly demonstrated. The distribution within Dade County,

by city, shows a high concentration within the city of Miami (Metro. Dade




Dade (Miami

Hill boroug

Palm Beach

(Ft. Lauder

St. Lucie






Table Summary

% of Total Service Requests for the State, by County
Employment Service Requests from 10-80 to 12-81
General Assistance Requests in January of 1982

Employment Services General Assistance
Haitian Cuban Combination Both Groups
% % %
) 51.1 86.0 87.6

h 1.6 4.5 1.9

17.0 1.5 1.6

14.0 1.0 2.7

5.6 0.06 2.0

4.4 0.2 1.0

1.3 1.3 1.0

1.3 0.1 0.04

0.08 3.1 1.5

Note: See comments on Haitians in the migrant stream and clusters in nearby

Note: There are large migrant camps in Lantana and Delray Beach, both in
SPalm Beach County.

(State of Florida, Dept. of Health & Rehabilitative Services, 1982)


Entrants Entrants Refugees Refugees Entrants Refugees
Jan. 1982 Apr. 1982 Jan. 1982 Apr. 1982 Jan. 1982 Jan. 1982
Dist. County I persons 2 total I persons 2 total I persons 2 total I persons Z total I persons Z total I persons I total

1 Escambia 16 '1% 15 41% 514 92 503 9Z 11 IX1 183 8%
Okaloosa 41 -1% 32 < 1 120 22 134 2% 2 1 51 2%
Santa Rosa 6 <1% 5 <1% 1 Walton 8 12X 8 '1X 2 < 1 2 <1X 0 0 0 0

2a Bay 2 -1 1 <1% 118 2% 134 2% 4- 1% 52 2%
Calhoun 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Gulf 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Holmes 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 <1X
Jackson 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Washington 0 0 0 0 1 < 1% 1 12 0 0 0 0

2b Franklin 0 0 00 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Gadsden 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Jefferson 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Leon 8 1% 1 <1% 6 1% 20 '12 2 %IX 14 -1%
Liberty 000 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Hadison 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Taylor 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Wakulla 0 0 0 0 2 1% 2 1X2 0 0 0 0

(State of Florida, Dept. of Health & Rehabilitative Services, 1982)

TABLE 5. State Services Used by Entrants and Refugees, by County, 1982
General Assistance & Aid for Dependent Children (A.F.D.C.)



Dist. County

3A Alachua

3b Citrus

4a Baker

Jan. 1982
I persons X total

Apr. 1982
I persons Z total

0 0

Jan. 1982
I persons Z total

Apr. 1982
I persons % total

Jan. 1982
I persons 2 total

Jan. 1982
I persons 2 total

0 0

(State of Florida, Dept. of Health & Rehabilitative Services, 1982)

TABLE 5. State Services Used by Entrants and Refugees, by County, 1982
General Assistance & Aid for Dependent Children (A.F.D.C.)




Jan. 1982
1 persons Z total

0 0

Apr. 1982
f persons Z total

0 0

Jan. 1982
I persons 2 total
0 0

Apr. 1982
I persons % total

Jan. 1982
# persons % total
0 0

Jan. 1982
# persons % total
0 0

0 0 0
14 < '1 12

0 0
2 < 1%

6 Hillsborough 631
Hanatee 26

7a Orange


8a Hardee

8b DeSoto

0 0

0 0
3 < 12

0 0

0 0
6 <1%

14 < 1%

11 < 1%

13 12

0 0
<1% 47

(State of Florida, Dept. of Health & Rehabilitative Services, 1982)

TABLE 5. State Services Used by Entrants and Refugees, by County, 1982
General Assistance & Aid for Dependent Children (A.F.D.C.)

Dist. County
4b Flagler
St. Johns

5 Pasco




Dist. County

8c Charlotte

9 Indian River
Palm Beach
St. Lucie

Jan. 1982
I persons 2 total

0 0

Apr. 1982
f persons X total

0 0

Jan. 1982
I persona % total

0 0

Apr. 1982
I persons Z total

O 0
6 <12
0 0
0 0
37 4 1%

0 0
0 0
0 0
20 1%
0 0

Jan. 1982
f persons X total

Jan. 1982
f persons I total

887 3% 1,154





32 56 1% 60 --- 363 4% 8 < 1%

87.2% 3,308
1% 15


(State of Florida, Dept. of Health & Rehabilitative Services, 1982)

TABLE 5. State Services Used by Entrants and Refugees, by County, 1982
General Assistance & Aid for Dependent Children (A.F.D.C.)

10 Broward

11 Dade









Cty., 1981; State of Florida Dept. of Labor, 1982). The statewide information

shows that the Haitians display a tendency towards secondary migration to

otner Florida cities, and further diffusion from urban centers into counties

characterized by employment of migrant agricultural labor (Owens, 1982).

Estimates of Haitians in the East Coast migrant farm labor stream range from

7,000 to 20,000 (Koeppel, 1982; Longchamps, 1982; Owens, 1982; Boswell, 1982).

Interviews with persons directly involved in serving Haitian migrant workers

yield estimates of 20,000 to 25,000, 20 to 25% of the total migrant labor

force in Florida. Many may have been counted as or assumed to be Florida

residents even though they may spend only the winter season in Florida.

The state services data must be interpreted with caution due to

considerable inherent Dias in its source. The client groups) for state

services may not be representative of the entire entrant population. Aid for

Dependent Children (A.F.D.C.) and education (K-12) select for families and

against single unrelated entrants or all-adult family groups. The use of

services such as unemployment and general assistance biases the sample toward

the most impoverished and least successful of the group. There is the further

complication of illegality for tne Haitian group, which may decrease their use

of state services compared to Cuban entrants (Weiderman, 1977; Owens, 1982;

Longchamps, 1982).

There is an urgent need for primary research to document distribution of

botn entrant groups within the state. Consultation of various sources,

including the 1980 national census (Gladwin, 1982), Cuban Haitian Task Force

Reports (Bowen, 1980, 1981; Rivera 1980), State of Florida and federal

documents (State of Florida Dept. of Labor, 1982; State of Florida DHRS, 1982)

indicate a lack of information about the distribution and status of both

entrant groups within the State of Florida. In order to effectively evaluate

service needs and plan service delivery, follow-up studies should be


co ducted, including research into secondary migration of entrant groups (See

Richman, this volume).


Pre-1979 Haitian migrants moved from the city of Port-au-Prince in Haiti

to New YorK City or Miami, established permanent residence in the urban area,

and were employed as domestics or factory workers. Their previous employment

in Haiti was often in the manufacturing sector or as specialized domestic

wo Kers (Buchanan, 1979; Weidman, 1978). In contrast, the majority of the

re ent migrants left the rural countryside in Haiti, then became residents of

Miami's densely populated Edison-Little River district (Lieberman, 1982;

Me ro. Dade Cty., 1981; Stepick, 1981). In a secondary migration, many later

mo ed to rural areas in Florida to work as migrant farm laborers or to other

inner city areas in Jacksonville, Tampa, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, and

Or ando, in search of unskilled jobs. From both the migrant labor camps and

the large urban areas many Haitians have resettled into smaller enclaves in

towns and smaller cities in agricultural areas, such as Winter Haven,

Immokalee, and Okeechobee (Owens, 1982). Employed farmworkers, domestics, and

day-laborers in these enclaves can pool resources with themselves and with

unemployed members of the group (Owens, 1982).

This secondary migration is related to the political economy of the State

of Florida just as the primary migration was tied to the political economy of

Haiti. Differences in demographic characteristics between recent Haitian

e trants and prior migrants, as well as between Haitian and Cuban entrants,

has strongly affected the fate of the migrants in tne receiving area, Florida.

T-is is expressed in the distribution of the migrants spatially and their

degree of marginality and upward mobility socially. The push from the Miami

area includes a severe housing shortage and high unemployment among entrants.

The movement to smaller enclaves represents an improvement in quality-of-life

over prior conditions, and more readily qualifies as a true choice. The

initial move from Miami to camps or inner city areas represents a horizontal

move, best characterized as a spatial displacement externally induced

(directly or indirectly).

In contrast to the Haitians' pattern of initial dispersal then

establishment of small isolated clusters (Figure 3), the Cuban entrants have

diffused slowly out from Miami, Hialeah, and Miami Beach into Monroe, Broward,

Palm Beach Counties, or have settled into Miami neighborhoods being vacated by

prior Cuban migrants who have moved into these adjacent counties (Portes, et

al. 1982). Secondary migrations by Cuban entrants are more likely to be

directed to areas of higher socioeconomic status and greater employment

opportunity (Portes, et al. 1982; Wilson and Portes, 1980). Among those

Cuban entrants initially resettled outside of Florida there has been a strong

tendency toward secondary migration to the Miami area, with subsequent

settlement and migration following the same pattern of gradual diffusion

described above. This pattern of slow diffusion more closely reflects the

pattern of urban-suburban migration displayed by previous waves of upwardly

mobile immigrants whose predecessors have either assimilated successfully or

have built economically and politically viable enclaves in the receiving area

(Safa, 1982; Portes, et al. 1982).


The impact of the entrants upon the State of Florida has been a subject

of keen interest and heated controversy since their arrival and the subsequent

definition of their status by federal authorities. The specific impact on

state services, and health care services in particular, has been documented

elsewhere (Lieberman, 1982; State of Florida DHRS, 1982). We shall confine





uderdal H

Cy / '
Ci5y (SPalm}
City4 Sicurb/ \Beach


Contrasting Patterns of Secondary Migration by Cuban
and Haitian Entrant Groups

ourselves to employment, which is a major concern.

Both Cuban and Haitian entrant groups have shared a high initial

unemployment rate. By virtue of their lack of education, experience, and

proficiency in English, many were prepared only for unskilled jobs. They were

dependent on public transportation, and relied on informal information

networks to find work (Metro. Dade Cty., 1981). By July 1980, approximately

47,000 entrants had entered in the South Florida labor force. The

unemployment rate was over 50% for entrants (State of Florida Dept. of Labor,


The unemployment rate and use of state assistance services have increased

dramatically over the past two years in Dade and Monroe Counties.

Unemployment rates soared from 6.3% in 1979 to 10.5% by July, 1980, and use of

state employment services increased by 16.3% from early 1980 to early 1981.

The Cuban and Haitian entrants have been cited as a major cause of

unemployment in South Florida (State of Florida Dept. of Labor, 1982). Such

conclusions have been based on general trends such as the increase in

applications for minimum wage entry level jobs, particularly in the

miscellaneous and benchwork categories (State of Florida Dept. of Labor,


The thousands of Cuban and Haitian entrants eligible for employment and

use of the Florida State Employment Service undoubtedly has had an adverse

impact on unemployment rates and state service usage rates. However, the

influx of entrants also coincided with the economic recession. During this

same period, employment openings in winter tourism service occupations dropped

46.8%, and overall job openings fell off 24.7%.

An estimate of the potential role of the entrants in the rising

unemployment rate showed a pronounced temporary impact at the local level

(Miami SMSA). Assuming 47,000 entrants in the labor force by July, 1980, and


an unemployment rate of approximately 50% within this group (28,000

unemployed), the entrant unemployed group accounted for 2.5% of the total

labor force (1,145,600 persons), and constituted approximately one-half of the

in rease in unemployment in the Miami SMSA during 1980, the other -half-of the

increase being attributed to the recession. The projected unemployment rate

for 1982 without the entrant group considered was 8.5%. With the entrant

group included the rate climbed to 10.5%, with higher unemployment among

Hi panic and non-white groups (Table 6). The women entrants faced a very

difficult situation, since unemployment rates were highest among non-white and

Hi panic females. This can be attributed partially to seasonal lay-offs by

th garment industry.

Tourism-related service occupations also tend to be seasonal in nature.

Seasonal unemployment is also a feature of agricultural labor if the worker

do s not follow the migrant stream through the rest of the annual cycle

outside of Florida. It is likely that many men and women from the entrant

groups, especially the Haitians, will become part of this periodically

un employed segment of the labor force. This may be a major determinant of

further secondary or seasonal migration to marginal areas of other Florida

cities and into the East Coast migrant farm labor stream.


The State of Florida has a vested interest in the immigration policy

pursued by the United States government and neighboring Caribbean nations

because of the immediate impact of recent Haitian and Cuban migrations on the

state. Information on socioeconomic conditions in the source areas indicates

a need to strengthen and redirect development programs and private U.S.

investments in Haiti and the Caribbean to provide viable alternatives to

em gration. The character of development aid programs and private industries



Total # in Labor Force



# Employed



# Unemployed Unemployment Rate
1979 1982 est.




* Current estimates include entrant groups; 1979 reported figures do not.

(State of Florida Dept. of Labor, 1982)




plays a major role in determining outmigration. Foreign-capitalized "runaway"

shops and assembly industries often encourage migration by perpetuating the

root causes of problems in the source area, while enabling workers to finance

their emigration. The promotion of self-managed small industries using local

raw materials to meet local and national demands might have the opposite

effect. To the extent that U.S. diplomatic initiatives can influence the

internal affairs of source countries, the encouragement of political freedom

and socioeconomic mobility is a potential deterrent to massive outmigration.

The impact of the entrants now in the State of Florida can be ameliorated

by directing them away from those sectors of the economy most affected by

underemployment and unemployment. Training programs may cost more at present,

but should prevent marginal employment and permanent or seasonal dependence on

public assistance in the future. The demographic and socioeconomic profile of

the entrant population indicates that the systematic marginalization of these

groups, especially the Haitians, is already in progress. Since the entrants

exhibit a strong willingness to undergo training and to work, there is the

potential to reverse this trend and develop a more productive long-term



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Karen E. Richman


This paper examines the recent Haitian migration to the United States and

the incorporation of Haitian workers into the system of migratory agricultural

laoor in the Eastern United States. In it, I consider the causes of the

exodus from rural Haiti, emphasizing the Haitians' motivations for emigrating,

their expectations of success in the United States, and their obligations to

their kinsmen who remain at home. I assess what happens to these young people

from Haiti as they are integrated into the bottom level of American

agribusiness and the lowest stratum of American society. This study is based

on research I conducted among Haitian farmworkers who travel from Florida to

New York in the "eastern stream" of migratory agricultural labor.


In the past decade more than eighty thousand Haitians migrated from rural

Haiti to the southeastern United States, where many of them have become

migratory farm workers. This most recent wave of Haitian immigrants, in

contrast to those of their urban upper- and miadle-class predecessors,

includes small-scale cultivators, craftsmen, merchants, fishermen, and

market-women. Lured by tales of success in the United States, these young men

and women risked the voyage to Florida in their own leaky dories and in the

hidden compartments of smugglers' boats. Many of the hopeful voyagers

imagined that they would find jobs in American hotels and factories. They

expected that as foreigners they would at first have to accept low-paying jobs


and they assumed that they would have to struggle to earn enough money to send

home to their families in Haiti. But few suspected that they would find

themselves fettered to a brutal system of migrant agricultural labor, destined

to travel from state to state to pick fruit and vegetables, performing the

type of lowly task reserved in rural Haiti for the most desperate, landless


Journalistic accounts of the rural Haitian exodus have erroneously

/ portrayed the Haitian "boat people" as paupers fleeing starvation. Haitian

families who can afford the exorbitant costs of sending one of their members

to ,he United States are by no means wanting for food. They are, in their own

worIs, "searching for life" ( cheche lavi ). "Life" in Haitian Creole means

reproduction and fertility, or, in economic terms, prosperity and return on

investments. Haiti, it seems to them, can no longer provide life to its rural

population, and America is a land whose opportunities promise life.

Those who have come searching for life in the United States are young

peo le, and, until the last years of the peasant migration, they have been

overwhelmingly young men (Allman, 1982). In rural Haiti, few opportunities

for employment are available to the sons of peasant cultivators who are

attempting to achieve economic independence and to establish their own

fam lies.(1) A shortage of land, divided into ever-smaller parcels as it was

pas ed on to descendants through the generations, now prohibits peasant

fat ers from bestowing pre-inheritance land grants to their sons, and the

latter, forced into sharecropping arrangements, cannot accumulate enough

savings to purchase their own plots. Most families lack the resources to

finance their children's education or to pay for apprenticeships with

master-craftsmen so that their offspring can learn trades. Unlike women, who

can find more opportunities as petty merchants in the multi-tiered internal

market system, young men have few outlets for employment. Odd jobs and

seasonal wage labor on the larger farms provide some income, but these forms

of irregular employment imply low status. Young men who have no other option

will travel to distant villages to find temporary wage employment rather than

suffer the humiliation of laboring for wages in a neighbor's garden (Murray,


Migration apparently offers many young Haitian men an alternative to the

ambiguous social status of adult "children" still dependent upon parents who

cannot afford to support them. In peasant Haiti, owning land and bearing

several children traditionally have symbolized manhood, and men who had not

proceeded through these social rites of passage were seen as socially inferior

persons. By migrating to a "rich country" ( youn pel -rich ), many men have

attempted to earn money to purchase land and start their own families.

Because education has today become the only reliable means to economic

success, parents now have the additional burden of sending their children to

school. Many young and unlettered parents have left their small children in

the care of close relatives and migrated to the United States to earn the

money to finance their children's education. They have turned to the outside

world to meet their society's expectations of them as responsible adults.

They hope one day to return to Haiti with the money to ensure their own and

their children's economic security.

While migration is seen as an effective adaptation for young men who are

trying to achieve economic autonomy, it also represents a way for their.

parents to further their own economic interests. Parents view their offspring

as economic resources, and they instill in their children the value that

children are responsible to assist their parents. Haitian migrants are

ashamed when they cannot manage to remit enough money to help their parents

pay off debts or to meet their social and religious obligations. Many young

Haitians come to the United States having left behind parents, spouses, and


children who, they say, "are all on their account" ( vo-tout-sou -kont-vo ).

These young people not only desire, but they are also enjoined, to work hard

and to forego even modest comforts for themselves so that they can send more

money home to their families in Haiti.


The exodus of the Haitian peasantry has a long history; it coincides with

the path of economic expansion and decline throughout North America and the

Caribbean.(2) Since the early decades of this century Haitian cane cutters

have crossed the eastern border to the Dominican Republic, and they also

traveled to Cuba until the Castro revolution, when they were no longer

welcome. Haitians flocked to the Bahamas after World War Two. When the

Bahamian economy declined in the 1960's, the Haitians were the first to be

expelled, and many of them came to the United States. In 1972, the first

boats filled with peasants sailed directly from Haiti to Florida, disproving

the Haitian's belief that the voyage was impossible (Boswell, 1982 and

Stepick, 1982). Haitian "boat people" have been making the journey ever


Since 1972 more than eighty thousand Haitians voyaged to the southern

Florida coast. As they waded to the shores, most were apprehended by

Immigration border patrols and then incarcerated in Krome North, a former

missile base outside of Miami. Until 1979, the Immigration and Naturalization

Services (INS) returned illegal Haitian immigrants to Port-au-Prince, on the

grounds that they were economic migrants and not political refugees. In

response to political pressure and lawsuits, the immigration agency changed

its policy of expelling Haitians and began paroling them into the Miami

community (Allman, 1982:9). The INS issued the Haitians I-94 forms, which

designated them with the ambiguous title, "Haitian/Cuban Entrant: Status

Pending." This status allows aliens the legal right to work in the United


Almost immediately after taking office in early 1981, the Reagan

Administration sought to terminate the Haitian migration to Florida. As an

initial step to "regain control of our borders,"(4) the Justice Department

requested the placement of a United States Coast Guard Cutter in the Windward

Passage between Cuba and Haiti. The Coast Guard was ordered to halt any

Haitians trying to sail through the passage to the United States, to adjudge

the voyagers before an ad-hoc immigration tribunal, and, if this "walrus

court"(5) rejected their claims to political asylum, to return them to Haiti.

Responding to pressure from our Administration, the Haitian government has

agreed to accept its returned citizens with open arms and vowed not to

persecute them for having left Haiti without exit visas.

The number of Haitians entering the United States has diminished from

more than a thousand each month during 1980 (when the Carter Administration

was releasing them on parole) to a mere trickle since the summer of 1981, when

the Reagan Administration began incarcerating and deporting them.


There are two ways to travel from Haiti to the United States: by jet

with an exit visa and by boat where money is the only requirement. The

Haitians who fly from the country's sole airport outside Port-au-Prince tend

to be members of the tiny educated elite or the small urban middle class with

the political connections to obtain exit documents. Those who voyage by sea

are the lower classes who have no hopes of receiving official visas, but their

passage may cost them as much as two or three times the price of a plane


Small groups of Haitian peasants have together purchased dories and


embarked from the coastal towns to the United States. Others travel in

kannte, larger, motorized "transports" equipped with hidden compartments for

stowing away their human cargo. Until late 1981, the kannte followed regular

schedules from such northern ports as Port de Paix and Mole St. Nicolas

(Bo well, 1982 and Stepick, 1982). Rapidly infiltrating modern Haitian lore

are stories of enterprising captains extracting exorbitant fees from their

pas engers and then ruthlessly tossing to the sharks anyone who sickens or

complains. According to rumors, the spoils from the lucrative kannte find

their way into the pockets of local officials.

The passengers on the sailboats and kannte are kinsmen and neighbors from

the same communities. These highly localized groups remain intact in the

United States; their members crowd into adjacent tenements in south Florida

slums and travel North together on contracts to pick fruits and vegetables.(6)

They support and aid one another, but they do not ordinarily extend these

kin nesses to outsiders from other parts of Haiti because outsiders are

different sorts of persons in their eyes.

More important in the peasants' ideology than the categories of work,

gender, and religion is their idea of place. Such common statements as,

"Mamma m se mounn Mirebalais me Papa m se mounn Jacmel" (My mother is a

Mirebalais person but my father is a Jacmel person) define the person's

sub tance by geographical origin. Rather than expressing mere location, these

statements differentiate kinds of person.(7)

Haitians do not therefore view themselves as members of a unified class

or society, but they believe that Americans wrongfully treat them as such and

their defense has been occasionally to band together. When an American labor

contractor has threatened to harm a Haitian farmworker, the latter's nearby

countrymen have rallied to his defense. They believe that the bosmann

(bossman) is abusing the man only because he is Haitian.

The Haitians' pride has thus helped partially to insure their safety on

the labor camp while it frustrates violent crew leaders whose primary method

of control is physical intimidation. As one labor contractor said to me after

a fierce battle between his field bosses and the Haitian crew in a Virginia

Eastern Shore tomato field, "Them Haytiyens would be so much easier to handle

if only they [like the rest of his American crew] didn't stick together the

way they do."(8)


As Haitians are absorbed into the lowest ranks of American agribusiness,

they are assigned the identity of "migrant." Agricultural laborers do not,

however, see themselves as a "migrant society." They do not share an

autonomous migrant culture, or separate systems of migrant thought and action.

The dominant American culture, however, portrays the communities of transient

agricultural workers as a semi-autonomous society with its own integrated

institutions and cultural categories.(9) In reality, farmworkers are

integrally related to the rest of American society, for their continued

impoverishment both results from and contributes to wealth in other sectors of

our economy. By ideologically cutting off mainstream society from that of

migrants, Americans sever their social responsibilities to the poorest and

most oppressed working class.

Common myths about migrant farmworkers further depict the population as

homogeneous and self-regenerating. Denied of personal histories which might

identify them instead with another category of Americans, migrants are assumed

to be now the way they always were and forever will be. Former Southern black

farmers, for example, who were disenfranchised by agribusiness and forced into

migratory wage labor for the same, are now classified as mere "migrants."

For, as one crew leader counseled me after I witnessed a bloody dispute


between two of his employees--one that we both knew he could have

prevented--"don't trouble yourself now; they're only migrants, just migrants."

Agribusiness "growers" eschew personal contact with the farmworkers who

return to their farms year after year, preferring to deal with labor

contractors who recruit, transport, and house the workers. If, however, a

grower professes, "I don't have anything to do with (the migrants) except to

see that they pick my peaches," he nevertheless feels that he possesses a

complete understanding of "migrant culture." In an echo of the paternalistic

ideology of the ante-bellum South (10), the growers' view portrays migrants,

as it once did American slaves, as lazy, undependable, childish, and in need

of gu dance by authoritarian, gun-wielding labor contractors.

The growers' conceptions of "migrant behavior" further serve to

legitimize their exploitative farm policies. Growers obligate their employees

to reside in dirty, over-crowded, and unsafe barracks; at the same time they

refuse to improve the housing because once the barracks are repaired, the

"migrants just go and tear down" the new structures. Growers also intervene

in the distribution of food stamps to their workers, claiming that "food

stamps make the people lazy." Finally, growers prohibit all outsiders entry

into tneir labor camps in order to insure that any "agitators"--providers of

health care and welfare and legal assistance--do not have the opportunity to

sway the impressionable minds of their workers.

If agribusiness growers depict their farmworkers as weak-minded, they and

their crew leaders make sure that their employees remain ignorant of their

rights under the Fair Labor Standards Act, which guarantees farmworkers the

minimum wage, and the Migrant and Seasonal Farmworkers' Protection Act, which

safeguards employees against abuses by farm labor contractors and agribusiness

growers. Meanwhile, the United States Department of Labor's disinclination to

enforce these laws fortifies growers' and crew leaders' convictions that they

may control absolutely the lives of farmworkers.

Testifying before a House of Representatives' hearing concerning health

conditions of labor camps, one grower from the Eastern Shore of Maryland

admitted that his farmworkers endured extreme hardship.(11) To absolve

himself of any guilt for the miserable living conditions on his camp, he

invoked the old paternalistic attitude and also a modern puritan ethic--"what

the people need is work and I give them work and free housing." Another

grower from the Eastern shore of Virginia testified that migrants enjoy the

wretched conditions in which they live; otherwise, they would take the

initiative to improve their living conditions themselves.

Haitian peasants who sailed here "looking for life" have no other choice

but to accept the inferior wages and degrading housing conditions of farm

labor. Since they are intent and arduous workers, Haitians are the preferred

prey of labor contractors who are paid by volume for the crops picked by their

workers. To survive in this poorly regulated industry, Haitians pick rapidly

and continuously without stopping to rest or eat, lest they lose precious time

on the piece rate and the few extra dollars that they could send home to their

families in Haiti.


As Haitian "boat people" join the lowest ranks of American agribusiness,

their institutions are transformed to suit their new lives among the rural

underclass. In the cramped farmworker ghettos of Belle Glade, Immokalee, and

Fort Pierce, Florida, young Haitian men and women establish new plasaj unions

to share incomes and raise children while they simultaneously continue to

support mates and offspring in Haiti. While the couples joined in plasa.-

unions are seriously committed to one another, most do not plan eventually to

marry each other. Each of the pair dreams instead of marrying an American,


hoping thereby to secure his or her immigration status. Haitian women, who

are far outnumbered by their male counterparts, tend to unite with Haitian

men. A larger proportion of the male population have married black American


keeping mainly to themselves, Haitians continue to eat their familiar

foods and often will withstand temporary hunger rather than pay for dishes

prepared in an American cooking style. American foods, many say, "have no

taste" ( vo Da-gen gou ). At some camps, enterprising crew leaders deduct

from their employees' wages for the meals prepared in the camps' kitchen,

whether the Haitians request these meals or not. Because they have no choice,

Haitians have accepted the deductions and at the same time have bought their

own food and cooked their own meals. Denied access to the well-furnished camp

kitchens, the Haitian women crouch over double-burner hot-plates in a corner

of the barracks to prepare the meals with the few utensils they carry with

them from Florida.(12)

While sustaining their hopes for life in the United States, Haitians

toler te the degrading and oppressive conditions of farm labor. Inside

dilapidated tarpaper shacks and crude cinder-block barracks, Haitian women

proudly maintain tidy living quarters. They cannot, however, disinfect the

stinking, disease-ridden latrines or the contaminated wells which have been

appro ed for "migrant use" by county health inspectors. Migrant farmworkers

frequ ntly suffer from dysentery and upper respiratory illnesses which

directly result from the unsanitary conditions of the labor camps.(13)

Perhaps even more debilitating to the Haitian farmworkers than the

endemic illness, the cramped living quarters, and contractors' extortion of

their wages is the growing violence between fellow countrymen. Frightened by

their experiences during 1980 and 1981 when crew leaders intimidated the

pickers with guns even while they were working in the fields, and discouraged


by the tacit approval of these practices by local law enforcement officers,

many Haitian farmworkers have begun to furnish their own protection with

unlicensed handguns bought on the streets of Florida.

These easily concealed pistols, however, are seldom used in self-defense

against threatening labor contractors. Their victims have been Haitians.

During the 1982 summer growing season on the Eastern Shores of Virginia and

Maryland, there were, for the first time, incidents of armed violence between

Haitian farmworkers. Many of the Haitians have publicly deplored these acts

of violence, and they have grieved the deaths of their neighbors from Haiti,

but they will not be dissuaded from carrying guns themselves.

As agribusiness squeezes out the humanity from its Haitian workers, it

transforms them into American's most recent version of "niggers." Now

Haitians are beginning to exhibit the qualities of internal strife and

depravity ascribed by American racist ideology as a genetic trait of ghetto


Who has profited from the recent exodus of young people from the Haitian

countryside? The kannte smugglers and American agribusiness have both claimed

their shares in the patrimony. Tne intended beneficiaries of the

migration--the migrants' families in Haiti--have received only a trickle of

the "life" they hoped for when their kinsmen embarked for the United States.

Those who risked the voyage have toiled hard, and in spite of the depravities

of migratory farm labor, still hope someday to return to Haiti with increased

life for tneir families. A few have already returned, and few have been

absorbed through marriage into the American underclass. It remains to be seen

just how long the majority of Haitian migrants will continue to weigh

favorably their quest for "life" against a tenuous humanity in the United



1. T is analysis of Haitian peasant culture and economy is drawn from my own
interviews with Haitian migrants from the rural areas and from recent studies
of the Haitian peasantry. Most important among these sources are: the
dissertation by Gerald Murray (1977), "The Evolution of Haitian Peasant Land
Tenure"; Mats Lundahl's (1979) study, Peasants and Poverty ; and "Agricultural
Development in Haiti; An Assessment of Sector Problems, Politics, and
Prospects Under Conditions of Severe Soil Erosion," by Clarence Zuvekas

2. An extensive discussion of the history of Haitian migration to the United
States is presented in Susan Buchanan's (1980) dissertation, "Scattered Seeds:
The MIaning of the Migration for Haitians in New York City." See also James
Allmah's (1982) paper on the history of Haitian emigration and articles by
Thomas Boswell and Alex Stepick in the special 1982 issue devoted to Caribbean
migration of the CaribDean Review 11(1).

3. The INS has continually refused to grant Haitian "entrants" political
asylum, claiming that they are economic migrants and not refugees fleeing
political, religious, or ethnic oppression. The Immigration Service has,
however, been frustrated by a series of Federal Court rulings, rendered in
cases brought by attorneys on behalf of Haitians, which have reversed its
decisions. Most notable among them are Judge King's 1979 directive to INS to
reprocess 5,000 Haitian applications for asylum and Judge Spellman's ruling in
1982, which ordered INS to release 1,900 Haitians held in detention centers in
five states and Puerto Rico.

udge Spellman ruled in the case, Louis versus Nelson, that the INS' new
policy of detaining Haitians was "null and void" because the agency had not
announced the alteration in the Federal Register and had not asked for public
comment, as required by the Administrative Procedure Act. The U.S. Justice
Department filed an appeal to the decision before the Eleventh U.S. Circuit
Court of Appeals in Atlanta. Haitian refugee groups have also appealed
Spellman's ruling that the detention of Haitians was not discriminatory
(Meislin: August 8, 1982, The New York-Times ).

4. This phrase, part of Attorney General William French Smith's testimony
before a congressional subcommittee, has been widely quoted.

5. This term "walrus court," a pun on the infamous "kangaraoo court," first
appeared in a New York Times report on the Administration's new policy of
trying Haitian asylum cases aboard the U.S. Coast Guard cutter stationed in
the Windward Passage.

6. Similar "migration chains" have operated in the internal migration system
among rural-urban migrants to Port-au-Prince (Locher, 1977) and among Haitian
migrants to New York City (Buchanan, 1980).

7. The Haitian Creole expression, mentality lakou. literally, "the yard
mentality," also describes the Haitian distrust of anyone who is from outside
the compound, where the extended peasant family traditionally resides. In her
analysis of the importance of community support for political organizations
among Haitians residing in New York City, Susan Buchanan comments that the
mentality lakou "makes cooperative interaction among unknown persons difficult
and also mitigates against making the issue, rather than a person or
personality, the primary attraction for joining an organization" (1980:281-2).

8. This same labor contractor has recently been audited by the Internal
Revenue Service for his failure to pay both unemployment and social security
taxes during 1980 and 1981 for his one-hundred member crew. He nevertheless
regularly took deductions for "social security" from his employees' wages
during that period.

9. In their ethnography, Migrant: Agricultural Workers in America's
Northeast, W. Friedland and D. Nelkin accept a-priori the dual economy theory
and then set out to constitute the autonomous social category of "migrant."
In portraying a migrant culture, the authors enumerate migrant jokes, games,
and religious beliefs. Even though nearly all of the migrant crews they
interviewed were Afro-American, the writers do not consider the influence of
Afro-American values and norms on the farmworkers' thoughts and actions. The
well-known Afro-American verbal art of "shuckin' and jivin'," for example, is
described instead as uniquely "migrant humor." Elaborating their theme of a
totally separate migrant culture, the authors proceed to the conceptual plain.
They assert that the migrants conceptualize the world in a series of binary
opposition, where a two-toned society and a double economy are only partial
representations of a binary universe.

10. See Eugene Genovese's discussion of the paternalistic ethic in the
ante-bellum South (1972:3-7).

11. The Subcommittee on Housing and Community Development of the Committee on
Banking, Finance, and Community Affairs was chaired by Representative Henry
Gonzalez (D-Texas). The Subcommittee's investigative hearings concerned
health and living conditions of farmworkers on labor camps, and they were held
during October, 1981 on Capitol Hill and on the Virginia Eastern Shore.

12. Single males often contribute toward the cost of meals prepared by one of
their groups or a female neighbor.

13. The poor health and over-crowded living conditions on labor camps of the
Maryland and Virginia Eastern Shores were documented in the statement of
public health nurse, Sister Jane Houghtman, before the Subcommittee on Housing
and Community Development in October, 1981.


Allman, J. "Haitian migration: Thirty years assessed."
Migration Today 10(1):6-14. 1982.

Boswell, T.D., "The new Haitian diaspora." Caribbean Review .

Buchanan, S.H. "Scattered Seeds: The Meaning of the Migration
for Haitians in New York City." Ph.D. Dissertation,
New York University. 1980.

Dunbarr, T. and L. Kravitz. Hard Traveling: Migrant farm
Workers in America Ballinger, Cambridge. 1976.

Friedland, W., and D. Nelkin. Migrant: -Agricultural Workers
in America'-s Northeast Holt, Reinhart and Winston,
New York. 1976.

Genovese, E. Roll,-Jordan. Roll Vintage Books, New York.

Levine, B. "Surplus populations: Economic migrants and
political refugees." Caribbean Review 11(1):4-5.

Lundahl, M. Peasants and Poverty Croom Helm, London. 1979.

Marshall, D. "The history of Caribbean migrations: The case
of the West Indies." Caribbean Review 11(1):6-9,
52-3. 1982.

Meislin, R. "Haitians Freed by U.S. Judge are in Legal and
Social Limbo." The New York Times August 8, 1982.

Murray, G.F. "The Evolution of Haitian Peasant Land Tenure."
Ph.D. Dissertation, Columbia University. 1977.

Safa, H.I. "Caribbean Migration to the U.S.: Cultural Identity
and the Process of Assimiliation"; In Different People .
Center for Cross-Cultural Education, Georgia State
University. Athens, GA. 1982.

Stepick, A. "The new Haitian exodus: The flight from terror
and poverty." Caribbean Review 11(1):14-17, 55-57.

United States Committee for Refugees, Inc. "Nineteen Eighty-
One World Refugee Survey." 1981.

Zuvekas, C. "Agricultural Development in Haiti: An Assessment
of Sector Problems, Policies, and Prospects Under
Conditions of Severe Soil Erosion." Agency for
International Development, Washington, D.C. 1978.

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