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Steve King: Undocumented Haitians Should Be Deported, Haiti in Great Need of Relief Workers

Andrea Nill: The Obama administration has agreed to halt the deportation of undocumented Haitians, though those currently held in detention centers will remain jailed unless TPS is granted.

Following the devastating earthquake in Haiti this week, many activists and politicians have heightened the cry for granting undocumented Haitians in the U.S. Temporary Protected Status (TPS). TPS is a longstanding cornerstone of U.S. immigration policy that is afforded to undocumented immigrants from a small number of federally-designated countries suffering armed conflicts, natural disasters, or other extraordinary circumstances until conditions improve. Many claim Haitians should’ve received TPS after four consecutive tropical cyclones in 2008 left 800 people dead, hundreds missing, and made the Haitian city of Gonaives “uninhabitable.”

haitian immigrants

However, Rep. Steve King (R-IA) seems to think that not only were undocumented Haitians undeserving of TPS status then, undocumented Haitians living in the U.S. should now be deported back to their country to specifically serve as much-needed relief workers. ABCNews reports:

“This sounds to me like open borders advocates exercising the Rahm Emanuel axiom: ‘Never let a crisis go to waste,’” Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, said in an e-mail message to ABCNews. “Illegal immigrants from Haiti have no reason to fear deportation but if they are deported, Haiti is in great need of relief workers and many of them could be a big help to their fellow Haitians.”

Members of King’s own party disagree. Though none of three GOP lawmakers is a co-sponsor of Rep. Luis Gutierrez’s (D-IL) comprehensive immigration reform bill, Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-FL), Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) have called on President Obama to grant TPS to undocumented Haitian immigrants, “a virtual lifeline for such an impoverished country.” Even the not too immigrant-friendly Mark Krikorian claims that TPS “was invented precisely for cases like Haiti today.” Dan Stein, director of the designated hate group Federation for American Immigration Reform, suggests coupling TPS for Haitians with the termination of TPS and the deportation of other nationals who he believes no longer “merit” it — an unusually generous recommendation for someone like Stein.

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King blatantly ignores the fact that Haitian immigrants could probably do a lot more to rebuild Haiti by staying in the U.S. than by returning to the little that’s left of their decimated country. Allowing undocumented Haitians who are already living in the U.S. to legally work would help them earn the honest wages they need to send back money to their families and get their country back on its feet. Relief workers are usually individuals who voluntarily donate their skills, time, and resources to help victims of conflict and natural disasters. In other words, undocumented Haitians who are permitted to stay in the U.S. can provide “relief.” If deported, they are essentially forced into a situation in which they’d become victims who need more relief.

The Obama administration has agreed to halt the deportation of undocumented Haitians, though those currently held in detention centers will remain jailed unless TPS is granted. Rep. Bill Nelson (D-FL) points out, that “it makes no sense to tell Haitians already here that they can stay in the U.S. in the wake of the earthquake, but cannot legally support themselves.”

andrea nill

Andrea Christina Nill

Andrea Christina Nill

Republished with permission from the Wonk Room/Think Progress