MIAMI BEACH, Fla. – The NAACP (search) opened its 94th annual convention Saturday with a call for the United States to adopt more equitable foreign policies toward African and Caribbean nations.
President Kweisi Mfume (search) criticized the government for neglecting Africa as it suffered from wars, famine and disease.
"Our policy with respect to the continent of Africa at best has been a policy that is inconsistent and incoherent," he said. "We've looked away in many instances because Africa was not politically correct or politically cute."
He said the nation should be motivated by its historical ties to Africa.
"Their resources are not the only things that attract us, but the history born out of the evil institution of slavery that binds us," Mfume said.
Mfume also criticized President Bush, who wrapped up his tour of Africa on Saturday, for again turning down an invitation to attend the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (search) convention. It was the third year he was invited and declined to attend.
"I think its a little ironic that the president will go to Africa to meet with black leaders, but he won't meet with black leaders here in the United States," Mfume said.
White House spokesman Scott Stanzel (search) said the president receives many invitations, but "unfortunately his busy schedule does not allow him to accept all of them."
Mfume said the United States should also have a consistent immigration policy for Caribbean migrants.
Since December 2001, Haitian immigrants applying for asylum have been kept in custody. Before the change, Haitians were generally released while their requests were processed.
Cubans seeking asylum are usually released within a few days — except for those caught at sea, who are generally returned to Cuba. The 1966 Cuban Adjustment Act (search) lets Cubans apply for permanent residency after they've been in this country for a year.
"There's no reason to have that kind of duality exist," Mfume said.