Haitian refugees in Amer­ica re­jected for ‘pro­tected sta­tus’

The Washington Times Weekly - - International Perspective - BY NI­CHOLAS KRALEV

The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion is re­sist­ing pres­sure from con­gres­sional Democrats and im­mi­gra­tion ad­vo­cates to al­low tens of thou­sands of un­doc­u­mented Haitians to re­main legally in the United States un­til their im­pov­er­ished coun­try re­cov­ers from a dev­as­tat­ing food cri­sis and a se­ries of nat­u­ral dis­as­ters.

The House Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee’s sub­com­mit­tee on im­mi­gra­tion, cit­i­zen­ship, refugees, bor­der se­cu­rity and in­ter­na­tional law is con­sid­er­ing a draft bill grant­ing “tem­po­rary pro­tected sta­tus” (TPS) to Haitians, but its prospects for pas­sage are slim.

A much faster way to pro­vide re­lief would be for Depart­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity Sec­re­tary Janet Napoli­tano to ex­er­cise her power un­der the law and ap­prove such sta­tus by ex­ec­u­tive or­der. But she has no such in­ten­tion, said her spokesman, Sean Smith.

“There is no change in our pol­icy on tem­po­rary pro­tected sta­tus, and de­por­ta­tions to Haiti are con­tin­u­ing,” he said March 17. “And let me be clear: No one liv­ing in Haiti right now should be at­tempt­ing to come to the United States in hopes that they will be granted TPS.”

The Depart­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity’s de­ci­sion is cer­tain to anger the Haitian gov­ern­ment, which re­peat­edly urged the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion to stop de­port­ing Haitian cit­i­zens. Of­fi­cials at the Haitian Em­bassy in Wash­ing­ton could not be reached for com­ment.

Mrs. Napoli­tano’s pre­de­ces- sor, Michael Chertoff, wrote in a let­ter to Haitian Pres­i­dent Rene Preval in Jan­uary that, “af­ter very care­ful con­sid­er­a­tion, I have con­cluded that Haiti does not cur­rently war­rant a TPS des­ig­na­tion.”

Ad­vo­cates of TPS had hoped that the new ad­min­is­tra­tion would change U.S. pol­icy. If ap­proved, TPS would stop the on­go­ing de­por­ta­tions and al­low mi­grants to work here legally but would not lead to per­ma­nent res­i­dency.

Rep. Al­cee L. Hast­ings, Florida Demo­crat and au­thor of the House bill, urged Mrs. Napoli­tano to grant TPS to Haitians in a meet­ing two weeks ago, said Lale M. Ma­maux, Mr. Hast­ings’ chief of staff.

“It is my un­der­stand­ing that Sec­re­tary Napoli­tano has taken th­ese rec­om­men­da­tions un­der con­sid­er­a­tion and will be pre­sent­ing them to the White House,” she said. “The con­gress­man very much hopes that the White House will do the right thing and seize the op­por­tu­nity to help our strug­gling neigh­bor.”

Mr. Smith said that Mrs. Napoli­tano did not mean to sug­gest to Mr. Hast­ings that a change of pol­icy was forth­com­ing.

In his bill, which has 40 cospon­sors, Mr. Hast­ings wrote that, “while United States pol­icy ad­vises Amer­i­cans that cur­rent con­di­tions make it un­safe to travel to Haiti, the same con­di­tions make it danger­ous and in­ap­pro­pri­ate to forcibly repa­tri­ate Haitians at this time.”

“The Haitian gov­ern­ment’s abil­ity to pro­vide ba­sic gov­ern­men­tal ser­vices — clean wa­ter, ed­u­ca­tion, pass­able road and ba­sic health care — has been se­verely com­pro­mised by the nat­u­ral dis­as­ters and food cri­sis in 2008,” he wrote.

Cit­i­zens of six coun­tries are cur­rently un­der TPS: Bu­rundi, El Sal­vador, Hon­duras, Nicaragua, So­ma­lia and Su­dan, ac­cord­ing to the DHS Web site.

Daniel Erik­son, di­rec­tor of Caribbean pro­grams at the In­ter-Amer­i­can Di­a­logue, a Wash­ing­ton think tank, said TPS “would help to re­lieve some of the pres­sure on the Haitian gov­ern­ment in the short term.”

“But what Haiti needs most is a long-term na­tion-build­ing ef­fort, not short-term stop-gap mea­sures,” he said. “Grant­ing TPS to Haiti is merely a BandAid that can­not heal a deeply wounded countr y and may raise the risks of a new wave of mi­gra­tion.”

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