The next night, the family was celebrating their engagement with KFC when they heard a loud bang. Seven immigration officials stormed the front door and demanded the family documents. “They were checking under the mattress, and they would flip it all over,” said Frantz. Quesnell whispered to his cousin, “Do they come here often?” His cousin replied: This is the first time. Franz showed his work permit and the passports of his Bahamian children. But when Nadia could not produce an entry visa, an armed agent put her in handcuffs. The agents discussed whether to take her children. Children of immigrants born in the Bahamas are essentially stateless, and only have a one-year window to obtain Bahamian citizenship when they turn 18. In the end, one of the agents pointed to the boys and said, “Let’s go.”
Nadia and the boys were loaded into a truck and taken to a secret facility known as the Safe House. Last year, a local nonprofit called Human Rights Bahamas filed a lawsuit alleging violations against detainees at Safe House. “For adults, this was a prison for women,” said a 35-year-old Jamaican immigrant, of time she spent at the facility with her 11-year-old daughter. “For the children, this was torture.” She reported that she was awakened by the screams of a sixteen-year-old Haitian girl being raped by the authorities. The Supreme Court confirmed that the Jamaican woman and her daughter were “unlawfully detained” and ordered their “unconditional release.” (The government of the Bahamas declined to comment; last year, the press reported that alleged human rights violations against migrants in the safe house were “baseless”). Nadia and her children spent two nights in the safe house. The next day, a guard ordered her to appear in court.
Nadia remembers being brought before the judge with braided hair and manicured nails. Nadia may have an asylum case. In Haiti, high fuel prices led to a general strike in the summer of 2018, and the authorities responded with violence; The police allegedly killed dozens of people, including children, in a neighborhood with links to the protests. I recently entered the country closingWhich resulted in the closure of schools and businesses. But courts in the Bahamas lacked direct routes for immigrants seeking asylum, and Nadia lacked a lawyer, so she was left to beg. She said, “I have two children.” The judge ordered her deportation.
Nadia is taken to a prison in Nassau, where she learns that her children have been detained by the state and placed in the care of social services. (Nadia’s younger son, Emmanuel, thought his mother had been killed by the police; Kesnell had to reassure him, saying, “We’ll see her again.”) Nadia was given a blue and white striped uniform, and she was placed in a cramped cell with twenty-two other women, some of whom were convicted. Violent crimes. She said, “I wanted to die.” In early December, she was taken back in court, handcuffed. The judge asked her if she would prefer to hand her children over to Franz or deport them with her. She chose the kids to stay with their father. But after the hearing, according to Nadia, the judge expressed concern that when Franz went to work, there would be no one to look after the children. Frantz protested that his children were born in the Bahamas. “They don’t know anything about Haiti!” He said. But the judge made his decision, and soon after, he ordered the boys’ deportation as well.
Hurricane Dorian struck amid rising anti-immigrant sentiment in the Bahamas. In 2016, a priest named Adrian Francis founded an influential group called Operation Bahamas, which urged the government to seize Haitian homes in shantytowns. Soon after Menes became prime minister, he set a two-month exit deadline for all illegal immigrants to leave the country; He pledged to deport those who remained and prosecute any Bahamas who had hired them. In 2018, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees downgraded the Bahamas in legal proceedings, citing violations of immigrants’ rights, including persistent reports of “police entering homes and shelters without probable cause, and sometimes soliciting bribes” and cases of immigration detention without Let them do that. To legal counsel or bail. The government’s anti-immigration campaign may have hampered evacuation efforts when Dorian arrived: Joseph Hillhouse, the fire chief from Florida who volunteered to recover bodies from under the rubble in Maude, told our team that he had met Haitians looking for loved ones who made it clear that “they did not evacuate because they were afraid of deportation.” “. In the wake of the storm, Operation Sovereign Bahamas organized a protest outside the pink storm shelter where Nadia and her children slept, calling for the expulsion of Haitians. Although Francis lamented the storm’s devastation, he found a bright side in the shantytown exodus: “Hurricane Dorian did the job the government refused to do.”
After the storm, despite its promise that the migrants would be safe, the government pursued a mass deportation program. According to the International Organization for Migration, in the three months following the hurricane, the government deported more than a thousand Haitians, of whom at least twenty were children, some of whom were born in the Bahamas, and four of them were deported alone, parent or guardian. (The government refused to comment on the deportations.) Shortly after the storm, authorities erected a high iron fence around Mudd and Peas, another shantytown, preventing survivors from returning, even to fetch their belongings. Bulldozers destroyed their homes, including Nadia’s. Then the government banned reconstruction in shantytowns. The prime minister announced that his government would use “compulsory takeover”, a form of high-profile property, to claim ownership. “We will destroy the shantytowns and restore the law to our country,” he told the parliament. He stressed that the growing strength of the storms necessitated the evacuation of Haitians from the shantytowns – an assertion that bears a grain of truth. “The buildings in Maud and the Peas were poorly built, and were not prepared for disasters, floods and hurricanes,” he told the press shortly after Dorian.
In fact, the land dispute had preceded the storm. For more than a decade, the government has been trying to demolish shantytowns, citing issues of safety and public health. In 2018, the Bahamas Human Rights Watch filed a lawsuit against the government to halt the demolitions, and gathered evidence that the officials were primarily motivated by anti-immigrant feelings. The Supreme Court issued an order that saved the living. After the storm wreaked havoc, however, the government resumed confiscation. Fred Smith, who directs human rights in the Bahamas, claimed that the government used the hurricane “as a pardon from God to unlawfully destroy people’s homes”.
In December 2019, we met with Duane Sands, the then health minister, who helped lead the government’s efforts to recover from the storm, at his office in Nassau. Sands, a 58-year-old, thin-mustered cardiothoracic surgeon, is an outspoken advocate of climate change risks – “on a very basic level, we have a new reality,” he said – and knows that they tend to deepen existing social inequalities. In January of last year, in an article he co-authored The New English Medicine NewspaperTitled “Double Environmental Injustice: Climate Change, Hurricane Dorian, and the Bahamas,” he noted that small island states “do not actually contribute to climate change,” yet bear its most dire consequences. He mentioned, in particular, the impacts felt by the poor, especially migrants. He wrote: “The socially and economically disadvantaged and marginalized populations suffer disproportionate harm and loss.” “We need to prepare now for Dorian-like future scenarios in a way that eliminates environmental injustice.”
But for Sands, the government’s takeover of Haiti’s shantytowns was imperative. Given the architectural weakness of the MD, he said, the safety of Haitian migrants was in danger: “The fact that it allowed them to develop led to tremendous damage and loss of life, as we have seen.” It would be inhuman to allow migrants to rebuild there, he said. “The next storm is coming, they are vulnerable again,” he said, although he indicated that he believed the strict immigration enforcement would benefit the Bahamas as well. As the climate warms, resources will become scarcer; In his view, the government had to continue deportations and immigration restrictions to preserve those resources for the indigenous people of the Bahamas. “The Bahamas cannot solve the Haiti problem,” he said.
On December 5, 2019, Nadia was taken from her cell and taken to the immigration detention center. There, eight weeks after their separation, she was reunited with her children. Kissnell pleaded, “Mom, I don’t want to go to Haiti!” The next morning, around 7 a.m., Nadia and the boys boarded a plane bound for Port-au-Prince. The plane was full of the two Dimensions who lost their homes due to Hurricane Dorian. Some of the women on the plane alleged that they were sexually assaulted while in detention. Men covered with bruises told IOM officials that they were beaten by the Bahamian authorities. (The government of the Bahamas declined to comment.) This was the first time Nadia’s children had been on a plane. “It looks very scary,” Kissnell said, looking out of the plane window. “Looks like someone is going to push you away!” He said of Haiti, “My mother told me it was going to be bad.”
In February 2020, we visited Nadia and the boys in Cap-Haitien. Nadia dressed for the occasion, dressed in a black cotton dress covered with hearts, her hair tied back in a tight bun. She met us on the street, guided us through a maze of vendors with bright advertisements for weddings, coffins and rice, and led us to her apartment. Her sons sat at the front door, made of a thin green sheet, and listened to Cardi B, wearing sunglasses. Nadia waved and urged us to sit on a bed with Garfield sheets.
She told us she felt powerless in the face of the storm. “If I was attacked with machetes or a knife, I would have been able to defend myself,” she said. “But it is nature. Can you fight nature?” Since arriving in Haiti, she has struggled to feed her children; She relied on cash transfers from Franz to stay afloat. She lacked the funds to send the boys to school and speak the little Creole language. They also seem to have contracted an infection. Kesnell took off his sunglasses to reveal a sore eye wound. Emmanuel showed itchy scales on his arm. Boys often asked why there was no TV, electricity, refrigerator or cornflakes. Kissnell missed a math class, and begged Emmanuel for the movies he once saw in Mudd: “Captain America”, “Moana” and “Spider-Man”.
Since then, the arrival of the coronavirus in Haiti has made life more difficult. Nadia and her children live in a crowded neighborhood where infection can spread quickly. She had planned to start selling fruit at a local beach, but the nationwide lockdown made this difficult. In the Bahamas, Frantz is often unable to find work, although he tries to collect remittances to ensure the boys can eat. The government of the Bahamas has deported more than a hundred Haitians since the outbreak of the virus. Others remain stuck in prolonged detention in the Bahamas, with little protection Coronavirus disease-19; In June, they went on hunger strike.
When we visited, Nadia told her children, about their life in Haiti, “This stage of life is just a page in a book. Soon we will turn the page.” I recently learned that a neighbor from Mudd – a teenage girl – had been deported from the Bahamas to Cap-Haïtien, only to sneak back into Nassau. The story gave her hope. She believed that living in the Bahamas was an acquired right for her children. She also had unfinished business there. On the night of her arrest in Nassau, she had put a gold engagement ring in her purse, and left it on the sofa of Franz’s cousin. Back then, she liked to imagine getting the ring back and marrying Franz in a simple ceremony. She said that as a family, they rebuilt their home in the Bahamas, this time with materials that could withstand storms, and again they painted it pink.