How much more suffering before the Obama administration protects Haitians living in the U.S.?

From Restore Fairness blog

On January 12th, 2010, the already impoverished Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince, was hit by an earthquake that measured 7.0 on the Richter scale. Frighteningly, that is all that is quantifiable about the disaster at the moment, with thousands trapped under rubble and the scale of destruction to lives and infrastructure yet unknown.

So how much more devastation does the nation of Haiti need to go through before the U.S. administration is convinced that the country is not equipped to cope with the thousands of Haitians who are currently facing deportation back to Haiti?

Between August and September of 2008 Haiti was hit with four tropical cyclones (Fay, Gustav, Hanna and Ike) which killed 800 people, displaced many thousands, and destroyed the economy of the country. Directly following those disasters the Bush administration faced pressure to grant Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to Haitians living in the U.S., a temporary amnesty, given in 18-month increments to immigrants stranded in the U.S.

The Secretary of Homeland Security may designate a foreign country for TPS due to conditions in the country that temporarily prevent the country's nationals from returning safely, or in certain circumstances, where the country is unable to handle the return of its nationals adequately...Ongoing armed conflict (such as civil war); An environmental disaster (such as earthquake or hurricane); Other extraordinary and temporary conditions.

But not only did the Bush administration fail to include Haiti within the nations whose citizens are granted TPS (namely Sudan, Somalia, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua), but soon after the Obama administration called for the deportation of 30,000 Haitians that President Bush had ordered. Unable to copy with the influx of so many deportees, the Haitian government ceased issuing travel documents for them, resulting in hundreds of deportees being held in detention centers even after they were flown back to Haiti.

At the time in March 2009, many  expressed outrage at the administration's treatment of Haitian immigrants and demanded TPS for Haitians in the U.S. based on the horrific "conditions on the ground" in Haiti,

Gonaives, Haiti's third largest city, is uninhabitable; most of the nation's livestock, food crops, farm tools and seeds destroyed; irrigation systems demolished; collapsed buildings throughout the country; 800,000 people left homeless and more than 800 dead. USAID estimates that 2.3 million Haitians now face "food insecurity," reeling from prices 40 percent higher than in January.

One year and another natural disaster later, the pressure to grant TPS to undocumented Haitians in the U.S. has reached its peak. On Wednesday, three Republican Member of Congress, Reps. Lincoln Diaz-Balart and Mario Diaz-Balart, and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen wrote a joint letter to President Obama calling for immediate granting of TPS to Haitian nationals. Democrat Alcee Hastings added his name to the appeal, stating it was "not only immoral, but irresponsible" to not allow Haitians to remain in the U.S. Additionally, New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand addressed a letter to the President saying,

Now is certainly not the time to deport Haitians into an overly burdened country...Haiti clearly meets the criteria for TPS designation and extending it would be one way to help address this catastrophe, as well as alleviate additional burdens on American assistance workers.

Yesterday, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano temporarily halted deportations to Haiti, and today Secretary of State Hillary Clinton indicated they may be moving towards TPS for Haitians. As it stands, those Haitians already in detention, such as Haitian activist Jean Montrevil, will continue to remain detained.

In their appeal to Obama, a number of immigrant advocacy organizations such as National Immigration Forum expressed their relief at the U.S. government's support for Haiti but asked for more long term revisions of the immigration policy,

We find some consolation that the Administration is acting quickly to mobilize relief efforts to Haiti. We support the latest Immigration and Customs Enforcement announcement that it is halting all deportations of Haitian immigrants for the time being, in light of the devastation caused by yesterday’s earthquake...These are the right immediate initial responses. But as part of its long term relief effort, the Administration must grant Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to Haitian immigrants who are now in the U.S.

Granting Haitian nationals TPS would release those in detention centers, unite them with their families, allow them to live and work legally in the U.S., and contribute to the economy in the U.S. and recovery of Haiti. It would also help undocumented Haitians across the U.S. Overall it would impact 125,000 Haitians.

When President Obama said, “You will have a friend and partner in the people of the United States today, and going forward,” we certainly hope that support extends itself to aiding those Haitians who are here.

We urge you to sign a petition, sign a letter to Obama and join a facebook group in support of TPS. And if you are looking for a reliable way to contribute to the earthquake, donate here.

 

Help Haiti? Let Haitians Stay and Cancel Haiti's Debt

President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton have pledged that the US will do all it can to help Haiti following the devastating earthquake. But while getting assistance into Haiti right now is extremely difficult, there are two things the Obama Administration could do immediately to help Haiti that are entirely within its control. It could grant "Temporary Protected Status" to undocumented Haitians in the U.S. - so they can stay here instead of adding to Haiti's burden, work legally, and send home money to help their relatives - and it could support the cancellation of Haiti's debts to the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, where the U.S. Treasury department has decisive influence. So far the Administration has refused to move on either issue. Why the delay? Even the Washington Post editorial board - on foreign policy, not usually known for singing Kumbaya - calls the Administration to account on both issues.

There's more...

Special Report: Haiti After the Quake + How to Help.

By Alison Hamm, Media Consortium Blogger

Over 100,000 people are believed dead after a magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck near the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince, on Tuesday afternoon. The quake buried countless buildings, from shantytowns to the presidential palace. All hospitals in Port-au-Prince have been leveled or abandoned. The United Nations headquarters and the city’s main prison have collapsed as well. Thousands of residents are homeless and without food, water, or electricity.

On the ground in Port-au-Prince

Haiti is in a state of chaos, as Kayla Coleman reports for Care2. “The streets…are flooded with the rubble of collapsed buildings and displaced people. … The earthquake has destroyed much of the already fragile and overburdened infrastructure.”

Because all hospitals have been destroyed, there is nowhere to take the injured. According to Coleman, the United Nations says it will immediately release $10 million from its emergency fund to aid relief efforts.

Haiti before the earthquake

And though Americans are now paying attention to Haiti in the wake of this disaster, little to no attention was paid to the “daily chaos and misery” that plagues the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, as James Ridgeway writes for Mother Jones. “It is hard to imagine what a magnitude 7 earthquake might do to a city that on any ordinary day already resembles a disaster area.”

Ridgeway also cites a 2006 New York Times report that details how the Bush administration helped destabilize Haiti in the years leading up to the 2004 coup.

Ridgeway writes:

“For the most part, Europe and the United States have continued to sit by as Haiti has grown poorer and poorer. When I was there you could find the children just outside Cite Soleil, the giant slum, living in the garbage dump, waiting for the U.S. army trucks to dump the scraps left from the meals of American soldiers. There they stood, knee deep in garbage, fighting for bits of food. As for the old, they people every street, gathering at the Holiday Inn at Port-au-Prince in wheelchairs, waiting at the doorway in search of a coin or two. They have no social safety net. And nobody with any money—no bank, no insurance company, no hedge fund, no mutual fund—ever makes any serious investment in the country.”

Will prevailing attitudes towards Haiti change?

At RaceWire, Michelle Chen writes that Haiti, a place “where buildings have been known to suddenly collapse on their own, even without the help of a natural disaster,” was still trying to recover from the severe tropical storms last spring that leveled hundreds of schools and left tens of thousands homeless.

Now the situation is desperate. “There will be an outpouring of sympathy across borders, a spasm of humanitarian aid,” Chen writes. But “will there be an attitude shift in the power structures that have long compounded natural disaster with politically manufactured crisis?”

‘Supporting the right kind of aid’

For those in Haiti, outside help is crucial. The country is in need of search and rescue volunteers, field hospitals, emergency health, water purification, and telecommunications. To ensure that you are supporting the right kind of aid—”the kind that builds local self-resilience, strengthens the local economy, and fosters local leadership,” as Sarah van Gelder details for Yes! Magazine—donate to one or more groups with a proven track record, such as Doctors without Borders, Grassroots International, Partners in Health, and Action Aid, among others.

Hip-hop artist and Haitian native Wyclef Jean has led efforts to help Haiti for years through his charity Yele Haiti. Jessica Calefati at Mother Jones reports that Yele spends $100,000 a year on athletic programs for Haitian children and helps feed 50,000 people a month with food donated by the UN. When Jean received word of the disaster, he immediately acted, sending a “flurry of tweets” for people to donate $5 by texting 501501. He has already returned to Haiti to help.

How you can help

For more details about how you can donate effectively, check out Yes!, Mother Jones, Care2, and The Nation’s roundups. You can also watch Free Speech TV’s action update video for more information.

GritTV aired a segment on Haiti featuring Danny Glover, Marie St. Cyr, and a performance by the Welfare Poets. The video (below) covers the devastation in Haiti after the quake as well as the state of the country prior to the crisis:

How not to help

For an example of how not to help in a time of crisis, take a look at televangelist Pat Robertson, who claimed yesterday that the quake was Haiti’s payback for a “pact with the devil” that slaves made to obtain independence from French colonials. As a rebuttal, Afro-Netizen points out how Haiti’s liberation greatly benefited the United States, and Tracy Viselli at Care2 writes that “if there is a god, Pat Robertson is one of the devil’s pied pipers.”

More coverage of the crisis

For more information about relief efforts in Haiti, what you can do to help, and some historical context, check out the below list of coverage by Media Consortium members.

  • Video from the Real News Network on how World Bank policies led to famine in Haiti.
  • Garry Pierre-Pierre of Inter Press Service reports on humanitarian efforts of Haitian-American leaders in New York.
  • Monica Potts explains why Americans should concentrate on our policies toward Haiti for The American Prospect.
  • Erin Rosa at Campus Progress writes about Ansel Herz, a young journalist that is on the ground at Haiti.
  • Video from The UpTake of President Obama’s pledge to send aid.

This post is a special report on Haiti and features links to the best independent, progressive reporting by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. For more updates, follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Mulch, The Pulse, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

Weekly Diaspora: Protecting Haitian Refugees Through Immigration Reform

By Nezua, Media Consortium Blogger

On Tuesday, the worst earthquake in 200 years struck just off the coast of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, as The Nation reports. Bringing “catastrophic destruction” to the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere, the disaster has spurred relief efforts worldwide. Crises like this are important reminders of how the treatment and protection of refugees must be a part of immigration reform.

Temporary protected status for Haitian refugees

In September of 2009—just one year after Haiti was decimated by four successive hurricanes and tropical storms that affected at least 3 million people—New America Media (NAM) made a prescient call to halt all deportation to Haiti, and grant Haitians temporary protected status (TPS) status in the U.S. “before more Haitians die or are impacted by natural disasters.”

Andrea Nill, writing for NAM’s EthnoBlog, reminds us it was only ten months ago, in March of 2009 that the Obama administration indicated it would “continue deporting undocumented Haitians,” in spite of the critical situation on the ground. Yesterday, Nill argued that not granting Haitian refugees TPS at this point would be “inconsistent with the promises the Obama administration has already made to the people of Haiti.” Later in the day, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano responded by stating deportations to Haiti would, indeed, be temporarily halted.

[ED. NOTE: Stay tuned for more coverage of Haiti and relief efforts. The Media Consortium will release a special report compiling our member's coverage of the crisis and ways to help later today.]

Legalize the undocumented; boost the economy

It’s a fortunate confluence of circumstance, when doing the right thing could also help our faltering economy. Jorge Rivas of RaceWire highlights a new study on the beneficial economic effects of legalizing undocumented workers through comprehensive immigration reform. The study came about through a partnership between the Center for American Progress and Dr. Raul Hinojosa-Ojeda, associate professor at the University of California, Los Angeles. The research suggests that legalization would yield $1.5 trillion to the U.S. Gross Domestic Product over a 10-year period, generate billions of dollars in additional tax revenue, increase wages for all levels of workers in the U.S. (the “wage floor”) and create hundreds of thousands of jobs.

Detention center cover up continues

RaceWire also reveals new developments in the horrific tale of corrupt immigration officials “desperate to conceal” multiple incidents of abuse in Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention centers. Violations of law include “covering up evidence of gross mistreatment, undercounting the number of detention deaths, discharging patients right before they die, and major efforts to avoid scrutiny from the news media.” Reportedly, ICE has made great efforts to cover up detention conditions and cruelty. (Video below).

 

‘Draconian’ anti-immigration legislation passed in Mississippi

Rev. Jeremy Tobin of American Forum reports on a piece of “draconian” anti-immigration legislation passed in Mississippi in March of 2008. SB 2988 makes it a felony for an undocumented immigrant to work in the state. The bill includes a waivable fine for employers that cooperate with the prosecution of undocumented workers. SB 2988 oppresses immigrants and weakens the power of organized labor. According to Tobin, one frustrated legislator said that the bill was “making it a crime to work an honest job.”

Tobin calls out various organizations that backed the bill. These groups “started out anti-civil rights” and have since “reinvented themselves to be anti-immigrant rights.” He also notes that a “disturbing” number of Mississippi Democrats voted for SB 2988.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about immigration by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Diaspora for a complete list of articles on immigration issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, and health care issues, check out The Audit, The Mulch, and The Pulse . This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

On Haïti

 

Bay kou bliye pote mak sonje
.
He who strikes the blow forgets, he who bears the bruises remembers.
— Haitian Proverb

 

The libertarian economist Tyler Cowen who blogs at Marginal Revolution asks why is Haiti so poor and posits a few hypotheses:

1. Haiti cut its colonial ties too early, rebelling against the French in the early 19th century and achieving complete independence. Guadaloupe and Martinique are still riding the gravy train and French aid is a huge chunk of their gdps.

2. Haiti was a French colony in the first place and French colonies do less well.

3. Sugar cane gave Haiti some early characteristics of "the resource curse," dating back to the 18th and 19th centuries.

4. Haiti was doing OK until the Duvaliers destroyed civil society, thus putting the country on a path toward destruction. It is a more or less random one-time event which wrecked the place.

5. Hegel was correct that the "voodoo religion," with its intransitive power relations among the gods, was prone to producing political intransitivity as well. (Isn't that a startling insight for a guy who didn't travel the broader world much?)

6. For reasons peculiar to the history of the slave trade, Haitian slaves came from many different parts of Africa and thus Haitian internal culture has long had lower levels of cohesion and cooperation. (The former point about the mix is true, but the cultural point is speculation.)

7. Haiti has higher than average levels of polygamy (but is this cause or effect?)

8. In the early to mid twentieth century, Haiti was poorly situated to attract Chines e and other immigrants, unlike say Jamaica or Trinidad. It is interesting that many of the wealthiest families in Haiti are Lebanese, such as the Naders.

 

Leaving aside the absurd suggestion that Haiti is somehow to blame for casting off slavery too early, some of these hypotheses are plausible if incomplete explanations for the enduring poverty of Haiti. Still and not surprisingly Dr. Cowen leaves out one of the more recent ones - the failure of free markets - and a more traditional one - an enduring racism that has pervaded the world's relationship with the world's first black republic. Dr. Cowen can blame voodoo culture but voodoo economics is the greater problem.

There's more...

Diaries

Advertise Blogads