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Haiti devastation could speed immigration debate

Destruction in Haiti after January 12, 2010 earthquake
As Haiti reels from a devastating earthquake that flattened buildings and left thousands of people trapped under rubble, three Republicans from Florida are calling on President Obama to do what President Bush never did -- grant temporary protected status to undocumented Haitians living in the U.S.

Lincoln Diaz-Balart, Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen wrote a letter to Obama arguing that "the combined destruction from today's catastrophic earthquake and the previous storms clearly makes forced repatriation of Haitians hazardous to their safety at this time...We strongly believe that it is for such a situation that Congress created TPS."

Even Broward Democrat Alcee Hastings added his name to the effort, calling it "not only immoral, but irresponsible'' to send the illegal Haitians back home.

The Obama administration has said that it wants to review the issue of the Haitians as part of a comprehensive approach to immigration reform. Coming to the aid of the mostly Catholic country are some advocacy groups with political punch, including the Catholic Church.

In February, Obama's Department of Homeland Security went ahead with the deportation of 30,000 Haitians first ordered up by the Bush administration. In response, Haiti stopped issuing travel documents for them, leaving some 600 Haitians in detention centers. In June, the Washington Post did a series on substandard medical care provided to the detainees.

By July, Obama said he was "very sympathetic" to the plight of the Haitians, but by October the advocacy groups were publicly expressing their unhappiness. "I feel they are stringing us along, and we are in an awkward position," said Randolph McGrorty, chief executive of Catholic Charities Legal Services. "Do we allow them to string us along because they are our allies or do we start calling them on the carpet for it?"

Now, given the utter destruction of the country's already-limited infrastructure, political pressure is likely to grow even further on the administration to let the illegals stay.

Mindful that immigration is a radioactive issue, Florida politicians are already trying to sell the policy to the public by arguing that the shift would actually help the U.S. economy. "By granting them TPS, Haitians currently in the United States would be able to legally work and contribute to their country's recovery,” Hastings said.

-- Johanna Neuman

Photo: A man stands amid rubble after Tuesday's earthquake in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince. Credit: Associated Press

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With all due respect and love to all who have experienced the tragedy, it would also be best to involve the most empowered or highly-educated members of the Haitian community, as well as empowered or highly-educated members of all immigrant communities here in the US, to take part in revitalizing the American economy.

A million apologies for sounding insensitive, but ALL immigrants involved in the immigration problems of the US can't expect Washington, Wall Street, or main street for that matter, to provide them with jobs in perpetuity.

It is time for all of us to help CREATE jobs in America for all Americans and immigrants. Seek new industries or expand trade here in the US with your home country. It's time to give back to the red-white-and-blue.

Now may not be the time to deport Haitian illegals back to their country. However, the current tragedy in Haiti does give the U.S. leverage to resolve the problem. Why not make U.S. aid to Haiti contingent on Haiti agreeing to take back their illegals?

A different approach would to go ahead with the deportations and use U.S. aid money to employ the illegals in rebuilding Haiti.

I like the line about rewarding Haitian illegals with TPS so they can work. With 17+% unemployment in our country, the need for Haitian labor isn't exactly obvious. Even at the height of the last economic expansion (actually bubble), U.S. labor wasn't prospering. The situation now is vastly worse.

TPS status for Haitians? How about sending them home as soon as we reasonably can.

It kind of makes sense to not dump Haitians back in Haiti, when it is a complete mess down there right now. In fact, we should consider transporting as many Haitians to America as want to come. We could set up receiving stations for them, similar to what they did in Houston to take care of the Hurricane victims in New Orleans. My heart bleeds when I see the conditions they live in there, even before the earthquake, and especially now. Give them automatic U.S. citizenship and they can stay as long as they want.

Maybe Hastings should use all the sleaze money in his freezer to pay for the
cost these illegals generate.

Temporary VISAs for Hatians illegally in our country seems a reasonable solution to the problem, underline Temporary. Their country is in shambles, so it would be inhumane to send them back home at this time. They could be considered temporary refugees and give temporary refugee status. When their country is back on it's feet again, then, send them home.

Those pushing for TPS for Haiti might have a stronger argument IF we didn't all know that there is no such thing as "Temporary" Protected Status. Fact is, once a country gets TPS, it never seems to lose it. El Salvador is a prime case. What, 9 or 10 years of TPS and somehow, El Salvador just isn't able to take back its citizens who live here under TPS, even though Salvadorans (like the cleaning lady at our office) go back there to visit families and vacation homes?!! TPS is a form of amnesty and we've had several of those. Give TPS and we'll no doubt see an influx of Haitian illegals trying to get in on it and risking their lives in the process.

The best way to deal with the issue is probably through what this Administration is already doing--suspending deportations to Haiti and providing/lobbying for foreign aid.

Hannah Katz wrote:"It kind of makes sense to not dump Haitians back in Haiti, when it is a complete mess down there right now. In fact, we should consider transporting as many Haitians to America as want to come. We could set up receiving stations for them, similar to what they did in Houston to take care of the Hurricane victims in New Orleans. My heart bleeds when I see the conditions they live in there, even before the earthquake, and especially now. Give them automatic U.S. citizenship and they can stay as long as they want."
You know, Haiti may be the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, but it's a long way from being the only poor country in the world or even the poorest. Are we expected to take all of the citizens of THOSE countries as well so they won't be "poor"? All that would do is make us poor as well, trying to provide jobs and social services.

Yes. Haiti should have had TPS long ago, and the present disaster makes it indispensible. We cannot deport people into this kind of disaster zone.


Worldwide demonstration of compassionate generosity and caring response proves that humans are redeemable beings who know how to express love, compassion, and charity when required.
You show your greatness in your response to crisis situations. Your presence for executive oversight of financial processes is so crucial to success of assistance to Haiti that you should not abandon that nation by merely giving money and other tangible resources. Oversight is an imperative necessity in order to prevent corruption from spreading. Giving money is wonderful, and worthy of great appreciation, but it is not enough. Your professional know-how, administrative competence, and compassionate dedication are paramount to assistance success. They lack the proper training, experience, and competence in effective resource administration and logistics, given the dearth of raw materials and technological development. I would like to encourage you in your dedicated and compassionate efforts to help that poor nation in its hour of need and disaster relief. I strongly recommend you coordinate efforts with donor organizations to maintain oversight by forming a directorate or committee with members receiving no profitable compensation in order to ensure integrity, as a non-profit administrative organization that would oversee expenditures for infrastructure, medical operations, water resources, hygiene and sanitation, roadways and streets, communications, transportation, food distribution, housing and shelter construction, etc...; for, the need is so great and local administrative experience lacking, that only the active presence of an international group of professional executors of a comprehensive long-term plan for building prosperity will work. Otherwise, the money will eventually disappear in dispensations that cater to preferred individuals or groups whose needs are so immense as to dwarf any conceived method of rational distribution. God bless you mightily for your generous hearts and caring response. Sincerely, L.E. Lochard

My name is mike, I am a haitian decsendent, I feel if they where to help the hatian s by allowing them to come to America, it will help later on from all the deseases that s about to kill the rest of them. I hate to put it so rough, but the pictures speak themselves. I am not asking for much just help, we would help you. I belleive almost if all the haitians will be more than happy to go to there new home after it is repaired.which it will. Thank you for letting me give you my feedback.


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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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