The USA and the Caribbean Interdiction Program

The principal focus of this paper is on interdiction at sea, in the Caribbean, by the United


States. It is directed against one particular group of boat people — Haitians. There will,


however, be some brief references to related United States programs and to US interdiction


of non-Haitians.


Haitian asylum seekers began arriving in the United States by boat as early as 1963. The


numbers started becoming significant in the 1970s and surged dramatically in 1980 and


1981. The Haitians were fleeing persecution, poverty, and in some cases both. In


response to the influx, in 1981 President Reagan entered into an agreement with the


Haitian government.


This paper will discuss the asserted justifications for interdiction, the resulting policy and


legal problems, and the consequences of combining interdiction with related



policies, such as detention, expedited removal, and other practices. It will suggest that


the combination of measures is more lethal than the sum of its parts, sometimes leaving


refugees with no acceptable options. If interdiction must be used, it will be argued,


adequate provision for full and fair refugee status determinations is critical.

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