Haiti, a Maryland-sized country sharing half the island of Hispaniola with the Dominican Republic, won independence from France in 1804 and since then has been beset by political strife and poverty.

Today, Haiti has descended into a Hobbesian state of nature, in which gang leaders like Jimmy Chérizier, aka “Barbecue,” will fight for control until someone stops them or one of them wins.

This month, gangs ransacked police stations, the airport, and public buildings and released hundreds of prisoners from jails. Just last weekend, what’s left of Haiti’s government declared an emergency in what seems to be more of a cry for help than notification of any change in circumstances.

At the same time, the U.S. Embassy evacuated nonessential staff in the dead of night, and the unelected prime minister resigned, unable to return from a trip abroad.

On March 13, U.S. Southern Command deployed a Marine Fleet-Anti-terrorism Security Team to support the Marine Security Guard unit permanently assigned to protect U.S. Embassy Port-au-Prince. These Marines will protect U.S. facilities and personnel but won’t attempt to restore order outside.

While the U.S. has pledged financial support for a U.N. mission to help stabilize security in Haiti, the American people are reluctant to lead yet another foreign intervention. Although the effort might keep the peace and temporarily earn the gratitude of the Haitian people, it would quickly be resented by the U.S. and global Left as neocolonialism. And it might fail outright and result in the loss of American lives and treasure.

Haiti’s last president was assassinated in July 2021. After that, Ariel Henry was sworn in as interim prime minister with U.S. support. He agreed to hold elections in 2023 and form a new government in February 2024. When he didn’t, riots erupted.

Meanwhile, Guy Philippe, a former police chief who helped force out President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 2004, completed a nine-year sentence in U.S. prison for helping Colombian drug smugglers, only to return home to contend for power with the likes of Barbecue.

As the situation in Haiti unraveled, the Biden administration proposed “an inclusive, Haitian-intensive-led process to find a broader political consensus around a new transitional government,” according to the State Department.

After a meeting in Jamaica with regional leaders, the U.S. supported a “transitional council” to set up elections. This would require not only pacifying or co-opting Haiti’s 300 gangs and various warlords, but also finding countries willing to send soldiers and police to do the work.

In less squeamish times, the U.S. simply took Haiti over. In 1915, after Haiti went through seven presidents in five years, President Woodrow Wilson sent in the Marines, who remained until 1934.

From 1957-1986, Haiti was under the dictatorship of François “Papa Doc” Duvalier and his son, Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier. After a popular uprising overthrew the regime, a brief period of democracy followed, but things fell apart again in 1991. Back went the U.S. in the 1994 Operation Restore Democracy. That restoration didn’t last long.

From 2004 to 2017, the United Nations had a stabilization and security mission in Haiti that kept things from boiling over. In 2011, there were 12,500 soldiers and police in Haiti from 50 U.N. member countries. U.S. troops were not there, but we paid nearly half of the tab.

What did that get us?

At minimum, it avoided the current lawlessness, economic collapse, and potentially massive outflows of “boat people” to the U.S. that we saw in the 1980s and 1990s. But it was not a recipe for lasting stability.

The U.N. provided security, but it could not supply the country or prevent brain drain, nor could it cure the corruption, endemic poverty, and entrenched oligarchy that have kept Haiti stuck in the early stage of development. The U.N.’s reputation was also tarnished with allegations of sexual assault and a cholera outbreak linked to U.N. peacekeepers who killed thousands of Haitians.

Now, Haiti is back to square one. In 2023, gangs killed more than 4,700 people. Kidnappings for ransom by gangs such as the Kraze Baryè are common. In early 2023, a vigilante movement called “bwa kale” (peeled wood) briefly tamped down the gangs by being equally brutal, but a few months later, the chaos returned.

Busy with war in Ukraine, Chinese expansionism, and the war Hamas started with Israel, no one wants to deal with Haiti yet again.

So, what’s the world to do?

Like other presidents before him, Joe Biden’s approach so far has been to prop up a weak and unpopular Haitian leader and hope for the best. Former U.S. Special Envoy to Haiti Daniel Foote described backing Henry as “arrogance and the hubris.” Now, with Henry resigning in favor of a “transitional council,” U.S. options are shrinking, and are all bad.

In 1969, a CIA estimate concluded that should Haiti destabilize after the fall of François Duvalier, “the United States would stand to gain nothing through intervention.” That was before the massive migrant outflows of the 1980s and 1990s. This threat looms yet again, and the Biden administration, given its generally lax approach to immigration, seems to be wholly unprepared.

Undeterred by past failures, last October, the United Nations Security Council adopted a resolution to authorize a Multinational Security Support mission to Haiti. The Biden administration pledged $200 million to fund it. Kenya offered to send up to 1,000 police officers to train and assist Haitian police and “protect strategic installations,” but it put a hold on this after Henry resigned. Even if they eventually agree to go, 1,000 Kenyan cops alone won’t do it.

In fiscal year 2021, over 46,000 Haitians were caught trying to cross U.S. borders illegally. Most of these were “asylum shoppers,” Haitians who had already been living safely elsewhere outside of Haiti but saw the chance under Biden to move to the United States instead.

In 2023, the official number trying to cross the border was down to 2,430, but they had not really stopped coming.

The Biden administration, partly to avoid more media nightmares of Haitians huddling under bridges at the border, invented a program to let Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans, and Venezuelans in the U.S. by abusing immigration parole.

Customs and Border Protection data indicates that nearly 160,000 Haitians came in through parole programs last year and another 80,000 have come in fiscal year 2024 so far. Many Haitians already in the U.S. illegally benefit from “temporary protected status,” which shields them from deportation.

The White House is reportedly dusting off plans to use the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base detention camp for Haitians caught attempting to enter the U.S. by boat.

When Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton used Guantanamo for initial asylum screenings in the early 1990s, the camp’s capacity was about 12,000 people, though now it could hold 60,000.

Under the George W. Bush administration in 2004, thousands of Haitians attempted to use a “shark visa” to get to America, meaning they would leave on tiny, unseaworthy boats and hope to make it outside Haiti’s 12-mile territorial waters to be rescued by the U.S. Coast Guard.

Among the hundreds of thousands of Haitians who crossed into the U.S. under Biden’s parole program or over the open southern border, there would surely have been some corrupt government officials, criminals, and gang members. We don’t know how many, because the Department of Homeland Security can’t check all their criminal records back in Haiti or elsewhere.

But the exodus also contained a considerable portion of Haiti’s middle class. Up to 40% of health care workers have left in the last few years, and more than 1,600 Haitian police officers left just last year. Putting Haiti-Dumpty back together again without educated professionals will be nearly impossible.

The best-case scenario for a new international mission to Haiti would be to reestablish law and order enough to hold an election, then hand over power and leave.

The whole cycle of political collapse could then repeat itself in a decade. But in the meantime, the U.S. could repatriate asylum-seekers, end temporary protected status, and discontinue the mass parole program benefiting Haiti. That way, thousands of educated, skilled Haitians could assist in rebuilding their own country.

The BorderLine is a weekly Daily Signal feature examining everything from the unprecedented illegal immigration crisis at the border to immigration’s impact on cities and states throughout the land. We will also shed light on other critical border-related issues like human trafficking, drug smuggling, terrorism, and more.

Read Other BorderLine Columns:

How ‘Sanctuary Cities’ Are Costing American Lives

Biden’s Catch-22—Continue Border Crisis or Fix It—Either Way, He Loses Support

Are We the Chump on the Latin American Block?

Asylum Zombies

The Gang’s All Here—Thanks to Biden’s Open Border

Have an opinion about this article? To sound off, please email letters@DailySignal.com, and we’ll consider publishing your edited remarks in our regular “We Hear You” feature. Remember to include the URL or headline of the article plus your name and town and/or state.