The Obama administration is considering a proposal to grant Haitians living in the United States illegally temporary protected status. The status would protect them from detention and deportation for a specific period of time, and allow them to work legally, while Haiti tries to recover from devastating hurricanes that plagued the country last year and wrecked the island’s already-frail economy. Hurricanes and tropical storms in 2008 killed hundreds of people, destroyed most of Haiti’s food crops and caused nearly a billion dollars in damage. Temporary protected status has occasionally been granted to immigrants who are unable to return safely to their home countries because of armed conflict or environmental disasters. It is currently in effect for people from El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Somalia and Sudan.
Supporters of the granting of temporary protected status for Haitians argue that Haiti is in no condition to absorb tens of thousands of deportees, and that its recovery may depend in part on a continuing flow of remittances sent home by illegal Haitian immigrants in the United States. Those remittances totaled $1.87 billion last year, according to estimates by the Inter-American Development Bank. The request was denied by the Bush administration last December and the Obama administration has indicated that it will continue to deport Haitians. In the last months however, supporters have drawn hope from an announcement in April from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that the administration was reviewing its deportation policy for Haitians. During a trip to Haiti in April, she also spoke about the importance of remittances to Haiti. Haitian advocates in New York say they have heard that the government has been detaining and deporting only those with criminal records, rather than those accused only of immigration violations. Barbara Gonzalez, a spokeswoman for United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement, did confirm that the US government “would continue to detain and deport Haitians who violate immigration laws but that under a recently executed agreement with the Haitian government, American immigration authorities were focusing on those with criminal records.”
Advocates for Haitian immigrants say that if the Obama administration approves protected status, the measure would most likely apply only to Haitians who were in the United States before the inauguration. Some opponents of temporary protection, however, fear that it would encourage more Haitians to attempt to cross illegally by boat with disastrous consequences. While no one knows exactly how many Haitians would be eligible for protected status, Ms. Gonzalez, the immigration spokeswoman, said “about 30,000 in the United States have exhausted their legal options and face final court-issued deportation orders.” There are countless others whose cases are ongoing or have not so far come to the attention of immigration officials.
Supporters of the temporary status were also encouraged by an editorial in the New York City area newspaper Newsday supporting the granting of the status on environmental grounds. “Haitians on Long Island and throughout The United States,” the paper wrote, “desperately need a break that President Barack Obama could provide with the stroke of a pen. That’s all it would take to grant Temporary Protected Status and postpone the deportation of 30,000 Haitians to their home country, which is reeling from devastating storms and floods. Obama should authorize the reprieve.”
Fort he editorial go to http://www.newsday.com/news/opinion/ny-vphait0912856339jun08,0,3599867.story