How To Help Our Needy Neighbor
The Tampa Tribune
Published: Saturday, March 8, 2008
Florida’s poorest neighbor, Haiti, has not yet recovered from tropical storms and floods, and continues to be plagued by social unrest and political uncertainty.
Under such conditions, it’s no surprise that Haiti doesn’t want its citizens who fled to the United States to be arrested and deported. Dollars they send home are feeding many hungry families.
In the present emergency, Haitian President Rene Preval makes a reasonable request: Grant temporary protected status to Haitians working in the United States.
Gov. Charlie Crist should urge President Bush to agree to let Haitians keep working for both humanitarian and practical reasons. Many of the Haitians in the country illegally have Florida jobs, typically in service industries or on farms.
The money they send home supports from five to 10 people. If this money stops, thousands of people back in Haiti would have no hope of buying food or medicine. Many of them would themselves try to leave.
U.S. immigration law allows for temporary lenience for foreign workers in emergencies. The Haitians would be given no amnesty nor would additional Haitians be allowed to enter illegally. The Inter-American Development estimates that Haitians working in this country send more than $1 billion home each year. That is money the country cannot afford to lose.
Those who argue that Haiti isn’t our problem should consider how close Haiti is to Florida shores. They should also review some history. More than 200 years ago, President Thomas Jefferson helped Haiti achieve independence from France. In 1915, the United States invaded Haiti and soon gave it a new constitution. In 1994, the United States threatened to invade again unless military leaders gave up power, which they did.
Today, Haiti is asking only that we permit it to help itself. Allowing its most industrious citizens to continue working for us for 12 to 18 months is a modest request that Bush should grant.