San Antonio Express Editorial
Pledges from individuals and governments to help the people of Haiti are a distant memory. Aid to rebuild the impoverished nation is trickling in.
Six months after a devastating earthquake took as many as 300,000 lives, the world has moved on. Donor nations committed to send $5.3 billion at a March aid conference. CNN reports less than 2 percent of that aid has actually been delivered. Of the $1.15 billion American pledge, nothing has yet been paid.
The humanitarian catastrophe in Haiti, however, continues.
The U.S. funds are tied up in the congressional appropriations process. Even if they were released today, it would take weeks, perhaps months, before the funds would make it through the international bureaucracy to the people who actually need it.
That needs to be done. But there’s an immediate way the United States can provide direct humanitarian relief — by expediting the entry of 55,000 Haitian visa candidates who already have relatives in the United States.
Normally, it would take years to clear the visa backlog. But given the magnitude of the suffering in Haiti, there’s ample moral reason to expedite that process and reunify families.
Just as important, Haitians living and working in the United States provide their own aid through the remittances they send back to relatives. These are legal immigrants who eventually will come to the United States. Allowing them to come now would enhance the creation of that private support network.
Congress and the Obama administration have the authority to expedite the visas and give these Haitians legal resident status. As recently as 2007, the U.S. government took similar steps to reunite thousands of Cubans with their families in the United States. The government should do so now for the Haitians.
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