Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

Help Emigrants Aid Haiti

Tampa Tribune Editorial
January 14, 2010

The United States, Haiti’s major benefactor and trading partner, is responding quickly to the disastrous earthquake that hit on Tuesday. Public and private contributions will be substantial.

Yet there is something more the United States should do and it’s politically difficult: grant temporary protected status to Haitians living here illegally.

Former President George Bush refused to do it, and President Barack Obama has dodged the issue, saying it should be part of “a broader conversation about immigration.”

Time has run out. Haiti has suffered a disaster of unprecedented proportions. Estimates of the dead � and injured lacking medical care � are horrifying.

An estimated 30,000 Haitians, many of them in Florida, are facing deportation from the United States back to a place where they cannot find work and likely cannot even find food and shelter. Immigration law anticipates the need for occasional flexibility in such situations. Currently immigrants from Sudan, El Salvador, Somalia and Liberia enjoy various levels of protection from immediate deportation.

Haitians living here deserve equal treatment. The best way to help them is to let them stay and work legally for up to 18 months. Haitians working in this country already send more than $1 billion home each year.

It’s a situation common around the world. Workers finding success abroad and sending money home help poorer countries improve themselves, reports Economist magazine. It notes that “armies of itinerant nannies, dishwashers, meatpackers and plumbers shift more capital to poorer countries than do Western aid efforts.”

Few countries are poorer than Haiti. Its capital city is reduced to rubble.

The decision to allow decent, noncriminal Haitians to stay here and work won’t be popular during this time of high local unemployment, but it is the decent, sensible and neighborly thing to do.

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