Out of the rubble and into a cage

Haiti earthquake looting

Ramon Espinosa / AP

When can you trust the state?  Never.  It’s a hard lesson to learn, made even more terrible by circumstances beyond anyone’s control.  Nearly five years after Hurricane Katrina, I still remember the terrifying video of cops manhandling an elderly woman and confiscating her gun — her only means of self-defense in a city gone mad.  And then there was the murder of two unarmed civilians on the Danziger Bridge, which the New Orleans police later tried to cover up.

You can’t trust the state, even when it appears no one else can save you.   And now survivors of the terrible earthquake in Haiti are learning the same, painful lesson:

More than two months after the earthquake that devastated Haiti, at least 30 survivors who were waved onto planes by Marines in the chaotic aftermath are prisoners of the United States immigration system, locked up since their arrival in detention centers in Florida.

These are not criminals — just people overwhelmed by the quake and subsequent aftershocks, looking for food, water and shelter.  When the Marines evacuated them, they were under the impression that they could join relatives already in the U. S., but instead they were immediately arrested and held for deportation by Immigration and Customs Enforcement — despite a current suspension of deportations to Haiti.  All of this, because they didn’t already have a piece of paper from the U. S. government granting them permission to come here.  And yet more immigrants have all but disappeared into ICE’s detention center network, with family unable to find them.  Some that were lucky enough to be freed were granted tourist visas, allowing them to stay for a short while, but not to work.

But even when their loved ones are put in cages for no reason by the government, people can’t seem to let go of their implicit trust of the state:

The government’s actions have been especially bewildering for the survivors’ relatives, like Virgile Ulysse, 69, an American citizen who keeps an Obama poster on his kitchen wall in Norwalk, Conn.  Mr. Ulysse said he could not explain to his nephews, Jackson, 20, and Reagan, 25, why they were brought to the United States on a military plane only to be jailed at the Broward center when they arrived in Orlando on Jan. 19.

The cognitive dissonance of that paragraph is almost dazzling: an Obama supporter who doesn’t understand why the Obama-led government jailed his nephews.  Even with the boot on their neck, people still look to the state to save them.  Will they ever learn?

Never trust the state.

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