According to the Miami Herald, more and more Cuban migrants are using the lights of Miami's Rickenbacker Causeway to find their way to freedom. "The brightly lit bridge...has become a beacon for Cubans traveling to the United States. In some villages, they are told to follow the bridge to the toll plaza for food and water."
And freedom. Unless, of course, you're Haitian. Haitians get sent back. Cubans can stay. Why? America's "Wet Foot/Dry Foot" policy. According to the law, Cubans and Haitians are equals at sea if intercepted by the Coast Guard: Back you go.
However, if a Cuban sets foot on U.S. soil, the law favors them with the right to stay in the U.S because they are seeking refuge from an oppressive political regime. Haitians, on the other hand, have to go back because they're only starving to death back home. Even if they land on the hallowed, legendary ground of the Rickenbacker Causeway. In 2002, live TV caught a large group of Haitians in a rickety old sailboat running aground on the Rickenbacker. Haitians were shown jumping off the boat and walking along the causeway, stopping surprised drivers asking for help. Toll booth workers helped them as much as they could but ultimately, once they were rounded up, they were returned to Haiti.
Rickenbacker Causeway ain't Ellis Island. At least the New York entrance to America's promise of hope and freedom never refused the "wretched refuse of your teeming shore...the homeless, tempest-tossed..."
"Since the start of the year," the story goes on, "at least 145 Cuban migrants in 15 separate groups have trickled onto the causeway." None of them were sent packing back to Cuba. What it comes down to is that Cubans got connections. Except for the clothes on their backs and hope in their hearts, Haitians got nothing. Even if they arrived wearing ruby red slippers, clicked their heels like a freaking chorus of crickets on a hot steamy south Florida night, and could sing like Dorothy, it won't mean a thing because they're all too goddamn black and poor. Some day that will change once the Haitian voting bloc becomes too big to ignore. Someday soon. Until then, the Rickenbacker is nothing more than a pretender to Ellis Island's legendary throne, a future tourist attraction only Cubans will want to make a pilgrimage to.