By JOHN CLEMENT FAVALORA
Below are excerpts from a letter by The Most Reverend John Clement Favalora, Archbishop of Miami, to President Bush.
I write to offer my strong, considered and prayerful support of Haitian President René Préval’s recent request for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Haitian immigrants in the United States.
As the Western Hemisphere’s poorest country, plagued by political instability, violence and environmental crises, Haiti is simply unable to handle the return of its nationals at this time, making Haitian nationals currently in the United States eligible for TPS under the Immigration and Nationality Act. As such, granting TPS for Haitians is not only the morally right course of action, but also sanctioned by law.
Daily, in the pews of our churches, behind the desks of our schools, inside the waiting rooms of our various ministries, I hear the tearful laments of our Haitian brothers and sisters who watch painfully, often tearfully, as their beloved homeland sinks deeper into a humanitarian crisis. I note with sadness the following tragic events, which prompted President Préval’s request:
• In October 2007, Tropical Storm Noel’s torrential rains caused floods and landslides damaging or destroying nearly 20,000 houses and killing 66 people;
• The storm hit as Haiti remains prone from the destruction of Tropical Storm Jeanne in 2004 that caused more than 2,500 deaths, countless injuries, and the complete destruction of 4,000 homes and left 250,000 homeless — a tragedy on the scale as one that prompted you to designate TPS for Salvadorans in 2001;
• To improve security in Haiti, President Préval requested the 8,000 U.N. peacekeeping troops to confront criminal gangs that kidnap, harass and terrorize Port-au-Prince residents, a testament to the continuing political violence;
• The U.S. government warns U.S. citizens of the risk of travel to Haiti, stating that ”chronic danger of violent crime, especially kidnappings. Most kidnappings are criminal in nature, and the kidnappers make no distinctions of nationality, race, gender or age; all are vulnerable. . . .” In fact, embassy personnel live under a curfew due to this violence. Yet many Haitians face the horrific choice of abandoning their U.S. citizen children in the United States, if deported to Haiti, or keeping the family unit intact by exposing their children to these risks.
If the people of Haiti have any chance to extricate themselves from this humanitarian crisis, TPS will serve as an essential element in their success.
With its destitute economy and political instability, the money sent to Haiti from Haitians in the United States represents a critical source of economic aid to the island nation. Haitians in the U.S. annually remit approximately $1 billion to Haiti, 30 percent of its gross domestic product.
Ongoing deportations not only staunch the flow of this significant economic assistance, but also exacerbate the humanitarian crisis by increasing joblessness, homelessness and family separation.