Not Granting Haitian Immigrants Temporary Protection Status After Earthquake Would Be “Not Only Immoral, But Irresponsible”

Since the election of President Obama, Haitians in the U.S. have been anxiously awaiting a change in immigration policy which would grant undocumented Haitian immigrants temporary protected status (TPS). TPS is a temporary immigration status that is available to individuals from a small number of federally-designated countries suffering armed conflicts, natural disasters, or other extraordinary circumstances. Haitian immigrants in the U.S. probably should’ve been granted TPS long before yesterday’s earthquake. Yet now, as Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL) points out, it would be “not only immoral, but irresponsible” not to.

Haiti’s recent woes come after enduring four consecutive tropical cyclones in 2008 that left 800 people dead and from which the country has yet to recover. The Miami Herald has reported that the Haitian city of Gonaives, is still “uninhabitable.” That same year, Port-Au-Prince was “shattered” as even 9,000 United Nation peacekeepers were unable to halt the looting and violence that ravaged Haiti’s capital. In March, USAID estimated that 2.3 million Haitians were facing “food insecurity” as a result of high food prices. Political instability continues to devastate the country.

Haitian immigrants had high hopes with the election of President Obama. Yet, many have since become frustrated with the administration’s “failure to deliver one of their top goals.” In March 2009, the Obama administration indicated that it would continue deporting undocumented Haitians, “despite appeals by the Haitian government, which says deportations could destabilize a country where food, water and housing have been in extremely short supply since major storms last summer.” One month later, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton indicated that the Obama administration hadn’t granted Haitians TPS because “we don’t want to encourage other Haitians to make the dangerous journey across the water.” In July, five U.S. senators, including the late Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA), personally wrote to President Obama, urging him to grant Haitian immigrants TPS. The senators countered criticisms that such a move would spark an unmanageable influx of Haitian immigrants by pointing out that TPS is only available to those already living in the U.S.

andreaThis morning, Obama affirmed that Haiti “will have a friend and partner in the people of the United States today, and going forward.” Continuing to deport thousands of Haitian immigrants back to their ravaged home country rather than letting them stay in the U.S. to help their families in Haiti get back on their feet is inconsistent with the promises the Obama administration has already made to the people of Haiti. The U.S. generously granted and extended TPS for 82,000 Hondurans and 5,000 Nicaraguans after Hurricane Mitch in 1998 and to 260,000 Salvadorans after an earthquake in 2001. There’s no reason why Haitians should be treated any different.

Andrea Christina Nill

Republished with permission from the Wonk Room/Think Progress


  1. Chrissy says

    rather have them here than the millions of Mexicans who have a perfectly good country but are here in L.A ruining our state and being jerks. at least they speak French and i could hold a conversation with them, instead of hearing QUE? QUE? every minute of my life. and they’d probably be thankful too..

  2. kelly says

    If the sky wasn’t blue enough you would bitch..Try taking care of the legally impoverished in your own country before espousing about the plight of the Haitians or their descedants who had the sense to get out. I wrote a big check……………


    • bek says

      Americans are suffering under the strong polarity of a high unemployment rate (10%)and difficulties with Medicare and healthcare reform in general…Haiti, once one of the most lush in prosperity and resources has succommed to the fait of many countries who lack the socio-cultural foundation and leadership necessary to become self sufficient.The leadership in such nations lack the furvor and long term interest on any issue other than to collect aid that continues the self perpetuating cycle of grinding poverty rather than to make them a self reliant populace. Opposition to massive immigration from Haiti is likely to explode and rightfully so!

  3. MdeG says

    Haiti should have had TPS long ago.

    Maybe our government’s reluctance to grant TPS (none since 9/11) is because it might mean admitting that many of the people who are here without docs are in fact refugees. And should be treated as such!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *