1991: First Haitian Refugees Held

On February 7th, 1991, Jean-Bertrand Aristide becomes the first democratically elected president of Haiti. The Haitian military overthrows Aristide within seven months of his presidency on September 29th the same year. This is the beginning of Haitian refugees fleeing Haiti. Starting on October 1991, alien migrants of Haiti begin their odyssey of migrating to the United States in search for peace and a better life. Picked up at sea, they are taken to the Guantánamo Naval Base (GNB). They are detained at GNB for fear of the spread of HIV/AIDS.

Out of approximately 2,000 Haitian refugees held at GNB, only 10% are permitted entry to the United States, leaving the rest to be repatriated. Haitian refugees seek asylum and are denied because the U.S. government does not believe that Haitians face political persecution at the time. The ones that are accepted into the United States by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) are accepted for economical reasons which has a consequence on their political asylum eligibility.

From November 1991 to June 1993, the United States forces participate in taking care of Haitian refugees by offering emergency humanitarian assistance. The INS aids in screening and moves eligible Haitian refugees to asylum in the United States.

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