Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

No good reason not to give Haiti TPS

Miami Herald Editorial

It defies logical comprehension that the U.S. government refuses to grant Temporary Protective Status (TPS) to Haitians living in this country, as it has done for residents from other countries torn by political turmoil or natural disaster. Haiti was ripped apart by three storms in four weeks this summer and faces a Herculean challenge merely to feed and house the tens of thousands of people who lost everything they had in the devastation. Haiti had not even recovered from Tropical Storms Noel in 2007 and Jeanne in 2004, which together killed 2,566 people when this year’s storms hit.

Plea to administration

Haiti President Rene Preval, Catholic bishops, members of Congress and international leaders, among others, have pleaded with the Bush administration for months to provide TPS to Haitians — to no avail. The only thing left to do is to continue to make the pleas in hopes of finding a spark of compassion.

If the administration thinks that granting TPS to Haitians would set off a mass exodus from the impoverished island, it could not be more wrong. TPS would have the opposite effect. TSP would allow undocumented Haitians already in this country to remain here for up to 18 months without fear of being deported. Last year, Haitians living here and elsewhere sent $1.8 billion to relatives back home. Allowing them to stay and work here would ensure that the dollars keep flowing. That kind of direct aid, coupled with other relief efforts, would help Haiti recover quicker.

In South Florida, it is impossible to observe that other immigrant groups have been given TPS — and deservedly so — without being disheartened by the contrasting gross unfairness to Haitians. Recently, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that it was extending TPS to Honduras, Nicaragua and El Salvador because of the ”lingering effects” of a terrible earthquake in 2001 and Hurricane Mitch in 1998.

Progress made

In a recent letter to DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff, South Florida lawmakers made the case for TPS for Haitians: ”TPS is the least expensive, most immediate form of humanitarian assistance we can provide Haiti, as it allows the Haitian government to invest all of its limited resources in the rebuilding and redevelopment of its struggling economy,” they wrote.

It is hard to imagine that the situation in Haiti can get more desperate than it is now. Before this year’s storms, Mr. Preval’s government — with help from the United States, United Nations and others — had made impressive progress in bringing violence under control and in creating economic and political stability. Without massive amounts of help, including TPS, Haiti could easily slip back into chaos and instability.

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