This week Haiti experienced an earthquake of catastrophic proportions, which has left hundreds of thousands of lives in peril. While we know that it was a magnitude 7.0 quake, we do not yet know the magnitude of lives lost or damage done.
Still, as we look for ways to provide assistance to survivors in Haiti, we must also figure out what to do about our immigration policy regarding Haitian immigrants here at home.
The debate has been raging for some time now about whether to extend "Temporary Protected Status," or TPS, to unauthorized Haitian immigrants facing severe circumstances back home (even before the latest natural disaster). Ginger Thompson, who has been covering the debate for the New York Times, wrote back in February:
After an estimated 1,000 people were killed in mudslides in Haiti last year, the government asked the United States to grant temporary protected status to Haitian immigrants — relief that was extended when Honduras and El Salvador were hit by similar disasters. The designation is intended for countries in such dire trouble that receiving deportees would undermine their stability.
Deportations of Haitians were temporarily suspended last September, while the Bush administration considered the request. In December, the request was denied and the deportations resumed.
Lawyers say hundreds of people were detained, pushing detention centers across Florida beyond capacity. Hundreds of other immigrants were forced to wear electronic monitoring devices.
Andrea Nill writes, at the Wonk Room:
Haitian immigrants in the U.S. probably should’ve been granted TPS long before yesterday’s earthquake. Yet now, as Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL) points out, it would be "not only immoral, but irresponsible" not to.
Haiti’s recent woes come after enduring four consecutive tropical cyclones in 2008 that left 800 people dead and from which the country has yet to recover. The Miami Herald has reported that the Haitian city of Gonaives, is still "uninhabitable." That same year, Port-Au-Prince was "shattered" as even 9,000 United Nation peacekeepers were unable to halt the looting and violence that ravaged Haiti’s capital. In March, USAID estimated that 2.3 million Haitians were facing "food insecurity" as a result of high food prices. Political instability continues to devastate the country.
Imagine2050.net hosts an "Open Letter to President Obama" on the issue, which concludes:
I urge you to revisit the requests for TPS for Haitians from:
The National Immigration Forum has this to say:
We find some consolation that the Administration is acting quickly to mobilize relief efforts to Haiti. We support the latest Immigration and Customs Enforcement announcement that it is halting all deportations of Haitian immigrants for the time being, in light of the devastation caused by yesterday’s earthquake.
These are the right immediate initial responses. But as part of its long term relief effort, the Administration must grant Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to Haitian immigrants who are now in the U.S. TPS is meant to protect nationals of a country that has experienced political turmoil or a natural disaster. There is no question that the chaos the country is experiencing in the wake of the earthquake qualifies as a reason to grant Temporary Protected Status to Haitians in the U.S.
While most everyone agrees that the crisis in Haiti is severe enough to warrant granting TPS to Haitian immigrants, the leading lights over at the John Tanton-linked Center for Immigration Studies are already complaining over at the National Review Online about how those darned immigrants may not get deported, once protected.
Mark (Sotomayor-should-change-her-name-to-sound-more-"Anglo") Krikorian has this to say of TPS:
It's a necessary tool, but as currently structured it functions as a permanent amnesty for anyone "lucky" enough to come from a country that suffers a natural (or even man-made) disaster. As far as I've been able to determine, not a single person who has ever been granted this "temporary" status has later been deported.
It's hard to know where to begin with this one. At least it shows consistency-- would hate to think Mark Krikorian wasted an opportunity to rail against immigrants "lucky" enough to have their homeland ripped apart by a 7.0 earthquake. In all fairness, thought, Krikorian does begin his post by conceding that now would probably be a good time for the Obama administration to grant Haitians TPS.