The Department of Homeland Security has decided to continue an ill-advised Bush administration policy of deporting illegal Haitian immigrants.
Haiti, already desperately poor, was devastated by storms last year. It is hard to see how an influx of up to 30,000 homeless, jobless people � the number of Haitians facing deportation from the United States � would do anything but further destabilize the country as it struggles to recover from what has been called its worst natural disaster in a century.
American advocates for Haitians have joined the Haitian government in pleading for an end to the deportations, arguing that all interests are better served by giving the detainees temporary protected status. When a political crisis or natural disaster makes repatriation a bad idea, it is far wiser to allow people to stay put rather than be forced home where they will place further strains on local supplies of food, clean water and housing � all of which are perilously scarce in Haiti. The Haitian diaspora can do a lot more for its stricken homeland by sending home what is really needed: money.
Ending deportations of Haitians would also be consistent. Tens of thousands of Nicaraguans, Hondurans, Salvadorans and others whose countries have been hit by war, earthquakes and hurricanes have routinely been granted protected status in 18-month increments.
The strongest argument against doing so is the fear that boatloads of Haitians will take to sea in a deadly gamble to win sanctuary for themselves. That is a legitimate concern. But the best way to address it is by helping to lessen Haiti�s misery with aid, trade and investment. Haitians living in this country can help � but not if they are deported home to a country that is in no condition to accept them.