Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

Haitians Shouldn’t be Left in Limbo

By Myriam Marquez
Miami Herald
Why won’t President Obama let 35,000 hardworking Haitians get a job?

It’s the question U.S. Reps. Kendrick Meek, Alcee Hastings and Debbie Wasserman Schultz should demand the president answer Monday during his Miami stop to raise money for House and Senate Democrats for next year’s congressional elections.

In July, Obama said he was “very sympathetic” to the concerns that immigration activists and Haitian Americans expressed about the ramifications of deporting undocumented Haitians who have not committed any crime to a nation that’s struggling to overcome last summer’s devastating hurricanes. Thanks for the sympathy, Mr. President, but that won’t get you a job if you’re a Haitian with a deportation order.

Even if you’re a Haitian married to a U.S. citizen or green-card holder and your paperwork gets bogged down in red tape.

Even if your brother is a Marine.

Even if you follow the rules, show up at immigration offices to clear up a document problem and your stay is approved — as happened to one Haitian woman married for five years to a U.S. citizen, and still, still, she was put in detention.

At least Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano hasn’t been sending noncriminal Haitians with deportation orders back to Haiti. But being locked up or sitting in your South Florida home with an ankle bracelet without the ability to feed yourself or your family is little consolation.

Our former “feel your pain” president, Bill Clinton, has the fortitude to call it right. During the recent Americas Conference at the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables, Clinton, now the United Nations envoy to Haiti, said granting temporary protected status, or TPS, to undocumented Haitians, so that they can work, makes sense.

Clinton’s trying to help that country attract business, build roads and dams and housing for those struggling there. It’s not smart U.S. policy to send another 35,000 people to a place that already has millions without adequate housing.

If not TPS, then why not an interim policy while the administration figures out its grand immigration reform plan (for next year) and allow U.S. work permits for Haitians while the tiny country rebuilds? Randolph McGrorty of Catholic Services notes this can be done on a case-by-case basis. So why the delay?

The fear that TPS would open the floodgates of Haitian refugees setting out for South Florida on rickety boats is overblown. It didn’t happen during the Clinton administration when several thousand Haitians were allowed to stay because of bloody political instability in Haiti.

So why leave Haitians in an American-imposed limbo?

Are you squirming yet? Because everybody knows the answer.

It’s the 800-pound political gorilla threatening common sense: race.

Obama would be seen as favoring black people, and, oh my, we wouldn’t want an African-American president playing favorites. Except he wouldn’t be playing favorites.

Obama would be treating Haitians just as past administrations have treated Salvadorans, Hondurans and Nicaraguans — all were granted TPS after natural disasters or civil wars devastated their countries.

If not TPS, then grant work papers case by case.

Let’s stop filling detention centers with people who have suffered enough.

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