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Haitian Heritage Month: The State of the Union
By: Alexander Cohen
The motto of Haiti is “L’union fait la force” which translates to “the union makes the strength.” In the wake of the January 2010 earthquake, the people of Haiti struggled with a humanitarian crisis that no union could solve unilaterally, much less a country that was the poorest in the western hemisphere before the tragedy.
After the earthquake in Haiti, the U.S. government granted Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to some Haitians, in order to ensure their safety and facilitate their recovery after the disaster. TPS provides immigrants the right to remain in the U.S. and work until the situation improves. Unfortunately, this move only applied to Haitians who were already in the U.S. before the earthquake, and not to those who were present in Haiti at the moment of tragedy.
A further attempt to assist Haiti came when the U.S. began to evacuate people, particularly children and the wounded, to America. Many of these people were, however, officially admitted as tourists, thus leaving them without the right to work.
While the government’s actions were steps toward rectifying the Haitians’ plight, CLINIC, along with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) advocated to extend the duration of the TPS for Haitians, and who was eligible for it. . Last week, CLINIC and USCCB welcomed the news, as Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano announced that TPS would be expanded to Haitians who had entered the country by January 12, 2011, exactly one year after the earthquake, and that they could remain in this status for at least 18 months. Furthermore, those who had been in the U.S. before the disaster also had their stays extended by 18 months.
Nonetheless, the problem has not been entirely solved for Haitian people seeking refuge in the U.S. There should be greater efforts made for the reunification of families, as some still have one family member stateside and one family member in Haiti. Additionally, deporting people to a country that still suffers from poor infrastructure, crime, hunger, and a cholera outbreak is inhumane. One deported Haitian has already been documented as a casualty from cholera-like symptoms just days after being sent back home.
While CLINIC applauds the work done so far by DHS to extend and expand TPS, the U.S. government can further extend its generosity toward the Haitian people as they strive to get out from under the weight of this tragedy and look to restore the strength of their union.
*Mr. Cohen works with CLINIC’s Advancement, Marketing & Communications Section
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