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The United States experienced an increase in Haitian refugees attempting to enter the country during the 1990s, after Haiti entered a period of instability when their democratically elected president was ousted by a military coup. Despite this, the United States continued to consider Hatian’s seeking asylum in the United States to be “economic refugees,” granting them basis to turn away Haitians easily. Often, the United States turned away Haitian refugees intercepted at sea without an asylum hearing. Rather than being based in immigration law, the United States’s response towards Haitian refugees was rooted in racism and was directly contradictory to asylum policies. Examining the United States differing treatments of Cuban and Haitian immigrants during the 1990s reveals the United States’ contradictory policies. Discrimination is evident when comparing United States policy specifically targeting Haitians to the rest of U.S. immigration and refugee laws. Although an appeals court initially found the policy of turning away asylum seekers at sea to be illegal, the practice continued throughout the Bush and Clinton administrations after the Supreme Court ruling Sale vs Haitian Centers Council, Inc. allowed it to continue. Although the government claimed any Haitians returned would not be under threat in Haiti, reports found that many were the victims of police intimidation and interrogation. The United States’ practice should have been ended and each asylum seeker attempting to enter the United States should have received an asylum hearing, whether they made it to land or not.



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United States’ Policy Towards Haitian Refugees