Who Do I Call My Countryman?
By: Jeffrey J Pelton
Length: 250 pages
Release date: Dec 31, 2013
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In the summer of 1994, an estimated 80,000 desperate Cubans and Haitians attempted a mass migration to the United States across the Caribbean Ocean in makeshift rafts and boats. Those that survived were rescued from the sea and taken to the US Navy base at Guantanamo, Cuba, where US Navy Seabees constructed massive tent cities in a large-scale humanitarian mission code-named Operation Sea Signal. The US Air Force deployed two field hospitals to provide medical care for the migrants, many of whom had suffered injuries and exposure at sea, and most of whom had not had any regular medical care in their native homelands.
Driven to this act by desperation and uncertain of their fate, many of these migrants began injuring themselves, inducing illness and feigning illness in an attempt to immigrate to the US by reason of “medical parole”. These are the human interest stories from that mission. These stories and events raise larger questions of how and why people come to America, and how they might behave once they have immigrated. Some of these disturbing behaviors led many US military personnel who served on that mission to question whether there is a litmus test for immigration to the United States. Many of those migrants would have made good countrymen. But a large number would not, and yet they probably did make it into the United States. The character of a nation’s people shapes that nation’s destiny. As the US begins to grapple with the long-festering problem of illegal immigration, the stories from this mission are worth hearing.
Includes 34 photographs.