How the U.S. can help right now in Haiti.

The Washington Post Sunday - - FRONT PAGE -

AYEAR AF­TER it was lev­eled by an earth­quake, Haiti re­mains, in many ways, a fee­ble ward of the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity. Rub­ble from the quake clogs much of the cap­i­tal of Port-auPrince; 1 mil­lion peo­ple are still liv­ing in tents; and Haiti’s econ­omy, frag­ile to be­gin with, is mostly supine. In the past few months, things have been made even worse by bit­terly dis­puted and in­con­clu­sive na­tional elec­tions and by a cholera epi­demic that has sick­ened tens of thou­sands and killed around 3,500 since Oc­to­ber. De­spite the suc­cess of the mas­sive in­ter­na­tional re­lief ef­fort in sav­ing lives and meet­ing ba­sic hu­man­i­tar­ian needs just af­ter the tem­blor, re­con­struc­tion re­mains a pipe dream for most Haitians.

Given Haiti’s deep-seated prob­lems, it was al­ways op­ti­mistic to imag­ine the coun­try would be whole again in 12 months, or “re­built bet­ter,” as the sunny post-quake slo­gan had it. Given the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity’s own check­ered ex­pe­ri­ence with long-term re­build­ing projects, it was equally op­ti­mistic to sup­pose that the bil­lions of dol­lars promised to heal Haiti would flow smoothly and quickly and be spent ef­fi­ciently. .

What is gen­uinely dis­ap­point­ing, though, is that the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion ap­pears to have given no se­ri­ous con­sid­er­a­tion to one ma­jor ini­tia­tive that would make an im­me­di­ate and pos­i­tive dif­fer­ence in the lives of tens of thou­sands of Haitians. Namely, it could grant en­try to 55,000 Haitian visa can­di­dates with relatives al­ready in the United States.

This hardly rad­i­cal pro­posal has been em­braced by the U.S. Con­fer­ence of May­ors, which rep­re­sents the very cities that would as­sume the costs of an in­flux of im­mi­grants. More­over, the would-be im­mi­grants’ pe­ti­tions to en­ter the United States and re­join their fam­i­lies have al­ready

been ap­proved by the Depart­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity. Once the visa back­log — a func­tion of quo­tas set by Congress — is cleared, the Haitians are likely to set­tle in this coun­try any­way.

Given the acute needs and deep suf­fer­ing, it makes moral and eco­nomic sense to move them to the front of the line. If Congress will not ad­just its visa quo­tas, then the ad­min­is­tra­tion could, on its own, ac­cel­er­ate the en­try of ap­pli­cants who oth­er­wise face waits of four to 11 years, grant them “ tem­po­rary pro­tec­tive sta­tus” on ar­rival and al­low them to work. The re­mit­tances they would send home could sup­port thou­sands of Haitians now strug­gling to sur­vive.

To date, the ad­min­is­tra­tion has turned a deaf ear, barely ac­knowl­edg­ing such ap­peals. . That un­der­cuts the pres­i­dent’s pledges that the United States stands ready to do ev­ery­thing pos­si­ble to help. As the may­ors noted last sum­mer, Amer­ica, the hemi­sphere’s rich­est coun­try, re­tains a moral obli­ga­tion to help Haiti, the poor­est.

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