Haiti's story is Florida's story because the goal of virtually all of the refugees is to make it to our shoreline.
To do that, they have to navigate their way through another country first, a country that call ill-afford to care for them.
New Providence Island is paradise, but only for some, says Harold Louis, the son of Haitian-born parents who live now in Nassau.
Articulate, handsome and Haitian, he is troubled by the status of the Haitian people on this island nation, the risks they are taking, and the public's perception of them.
"These are people I am tied to in some way... They are Haitians," he says. "It could have been any one of my family members who I don't know, about coming over here for a better life"
Spend a day on the poor side of the city of Nassau and the conversation is filled with the French lilt of Creole, not the musical cadence of the islands.
Most here have vivid memories of the nightmare of Haiti, with a 75 percent unemployment rate, a life expectancy of 49 years, and one of the highest infant mortality rates in the world
Joseph Flowers came to the Bahamas by boat 48 years ago. "They treat me good. I never have no problems," he says.
But Joseph Flowers is the exception.
As the Haitian illegal population swells toward 90,000, resentment toward them grows. Younger Haitians here see the Bahamas as merely a layover on the way to somewhere better.
While young Americans party hearty at Nassau's spring break hotels, Haitians, trying to dodge deportation, plot an escape; an escape that can that can come at a terrible cost.
Twenty Haitians drowned last weekend when a smugglers boat capsized fifteen miles off Nassau.
Maxil, who says his aunt Sylphia Kamel was one of the drowning victims, says the boat left from Nassau.
He is asked why she took the risk to pay a smuggler and enter a boat for the 150 open sea voyage to coastal Florida.
"I do not know..I don't understand," he says, shaking his head.
The Haitians here in Nassau want a decent burial for the 20 victims.
"We want them to get buried," says a member of a local church. "They're not dogs. To just throw them in the ground, throw them in the water; thats terrible."
In a dirt-poor community, funds are being raised for the funerals of the victims, whose bodies are not flown back to Haiti. Despite the odds of being drowned, captured and deported, they get in boats in the dark of night and take their chances.
As the United States Coast Guard braces for a tide of Haitians, smugglers who charge a life saving for a ride are taking names for the high risk rush to the U.S. coastline.
"They're running from Haiti to the Bahamas, from the Bahamas to the states. They just fly like birds. They dont know where they're going," says Joseph Flowers.
History tells us the Haitians populated the Bahamas in the 16th century.
Harold Louis says blood should account for something:
"They're running from a situation that they had no hand in. They are retracing the steps of their forefathers. We got to be more accepting in reality. Whose country is this? We have to help our brothers in time of need."
A parliamentary democracy, the Bahamas is commited to treating refugees humanely, but, like the U.S., deports illegal immigrants as quickly as possible.
As conditions decline in Haiti, the border security of both countries will be severely tested.
Copyright 2008 The E.W. Scripps Co. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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