Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

Rescuing Haiti

Miami Herald Editorial
January 14, 2010

Haiti’s long-suffering people can’t seem to catch a break.Just as signs of recovery appeared after a series of destructive storms and years of political upheaval, the earthquake that pummeled Haiti Tuesday inflicted incalculable damage and killed or maimed thousands. Among the prominent victims is the Catholic archbishop of Port-au-Prince, Msgr. Joseph Serge Miot, found dead in the ruins of his office.Entire neighborhoods are gone. Finding shelter for the destitute will be a major undertaking. The early Red Cross estimate is that the catastrophe affected three million people, roughly one of every three inhabitants.Tortured history

This is one of the worst disasters to strike Haiti in the course of a long and tortured history. Even the once gleaming National Palace, a symbol of strength and resiliency in the face of calamity, collapsed. Streets once teeming with life and commerce have been turned into scenes of heartbreak as the walking wounded pick their way through the rubble and around the uncounted dead and dying.

The international community has responded with a gratifying sense of urgency. Haiti needs lots of everything. The next few days will be particularly important in rescuing those who are trapped under collapsed buildings or in need of emergency medical assistance and the means to stay alive.

Every nation needs to pitch in, but there is something only the U.S. government can do that would alleviate Haiti’s suffering: Give Haitians already here and in danger of being deported a chance to remain in this country with the right to work.

Grant TPS

Authorizing the policy of “deferred enforced departure” would halt deportations. That would allow Haitians who pay an annual fee of $340 to get a work permit and earn money so they can send desperately needed dollars to relatives and friends in Haiti. Under the circumstances, the fee should be waived.

Better yet, the government can at long last grant Temporary Protected Status to Haitians to enable them to live and work in this country for a set period of time without having to hide from immigration authorities. Surely, this latest catastrophe should settle the question of whether Haitians deserve TPS.

President Obama rightly labeled this Haiti tragedy “cruel and incomprehensible.” It would be equally cruel and incomprehensible for the U.S. government to refuse to help undocumented Haitians in this country in Haiti’s time of torment.

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