Update: Thanks to everyone who responded so generously to organizations featured in last week�s alert on hurricane response. We�ve heard reports of tens of thousands of dollars in contributions to those organizations from the Half Hour for Haiti Community. Thanks as well to everyone who has responded to the Raboteau Massacre Victims� Challenge, which ends today. It looks like we will raise over $36,000, which is 83% of the victims� goal of $43,000. We�ll be sure to put that money to good work fighting for justice for Haiti�s poor.
The Jubilee Act appears stalled for now in the Senate. Sen. Tom Coburn (OK) has placed a �hold� on the bill, which will likely prevent a vote on it during the current session. The Act�s supporters in the Senate are negotiating with Sen. Coburn, in the hopes that a revised bill could get to a vote in a possible lame duck session later this year. Jubilee USA Network is organizing Jubilee Act supporters in Oklahoma; let us know if you can pitch in on that effort.
The temporary good news for Haitian visitors in the U.S. is that the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced a temporary halt to deportations to Haiti, because of the hurricane devastation. This is a good first step, but it is no substitute for Temporary Protected Status (TPS), which would allow non-resident Haitians living in the U.S. to remain in the country, work, and send money back to needy relatives in Haiti.
The temporary halt can be revoked at any time, which prevents people from making plans for themselves and their families, and it does not include work authorization. Work authorization is critical. By some calculations, a Haitian worker in the U.S. earning a modest salary can support up to ten family members back home. Rep. Alcee Hastings calls TPS �`the least expensive, most immediate form of humanitarian assistance we can provide Haiti.”
There is more durable good news- for nationals of Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua. TPS was extended for those three countries on September 26, on the basis of the devastation caused in 1999 in Honduras and Nicaragua by Hurricane Mitch, and in 2001 in El Salvador by earthquakes. Jonathan �Jock� Scharfen the Acting Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that the extension �continues the United States� long tradition of providing relief to our visitors who, for reasons beyond their control, can�t return to their homes.� Why do visitors from those countries continue to receive TPS status for natural disasters from seven and nine years ago, while Haitians are denied the protection for four storms that hit in the last six weeks? Because their friends, family and supporters speak up for them! Voters tell the Administration and Congress that TPS for those countries is important, so the government makes it a priority.
This week�s action: Speak up for non-resident Haitians in the United States: tell Acting Director Scharfen that justice demands that Haitians who can�t return to their homes should benefit from the United States� long tradition of providing relief to our visitors. You�ll be in good company, joining members of the House of Representatives, the Miami Herald, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, religious leaders, Haiti�s President and the Organization of American States. A model letter is below. Feel free to personalize it. If you don�t have time for a letter, click here and leave a comment on Mr. Scharfen�s article on the USCIS Leadership Journal blog.
Jonathan �Jock� Scharfen
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Washington, DC 20528
Re: Temporary Protected Status for Haitians in the U.S.
Dear Acting Director Scharfen:
I am writing to thank you for extending a temporary halt to deportations to Haiti because of the devastation there from the recent cyclones, and to urge you to grant Temporary Protected Status to Haitian nationals currently in the U.S.
Haiti provides a particularly compelling case for TPS. As you know, the devastation there from four tropical cyclones in three weeks is staggering. But even before the hurricanes hit, Haiti was uniquely fragile. Some cities had not recovered from Tropical Storm Jeanne, which killed 2000 people in 2004. Haiti was one of the hungriest countries in the world even before this year�s spike in global food costs. Food riots in April led to the resignation of the government. Haiti has also suffered from civil strife- one investigation found that over 4000 people were killed in political violence in 2004 and 2005.
Deporting Haitians now will add Haiti�s burdens, by placing an unemployed person into an overwhelmed society. It will also endanger those deported, as they may not have a safe place to sleep or access to healthcare or food. Granting TPS for Haitians already in the U.S. will help them become part of the solution to Haiti�s crisis. They will be able to work in the United States, and send money to help their family members rebuild their lives, providing immediate humanitarian relief. You noted that extending TPS for nationals of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador �continues the United States� long tradition of providing relief to our visitors who, for reasons beyond their control, can�t return to their homes.� Please extend this tradition where it is most needed and justified, to nationals of Haiti.
For more information about the Half-Hour For Haiti program, the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) or human rights in Haiti, see our website, www.HaitiJustice.org. To receive Half-Hour for Haiti Action Alerts (about 2 per month), send an email to HalfHour4Haiti@ijdh.org.