Grant Temporary Protected Status for Haitians
By Brian Averill
"Thousands of Haitians currently live in the U.S. due to political, economic, and
environmental crises in Haiti." I wrote that statement before Haiti saw one of the most
devastating events of its history on January 12, 2010. Both former President George W. Bush
and President Obama have ignored desperate pleas for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for
Haitians living in the United States. Even before Tuesday's catastrophic earthquake centered
near Haiti's capital city, Haiti qualified under U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
eligibility guidelines for TPS. Now, President Obama must come to the aid of Haitians in the
U.S. or risk exacerbating the situation in Haiti.
Although conditions in Haiti have warranted TPS, other American countries received
protection while Haiti has been ignored. Honduras, Nicaragua, and El Salvador are the largest
TPS-designated groups in the U.S. Honduras and Nicaragua suffered at least 6,500 killed' during
Hurricane Mitch in 1998. El Salvador endured two earthquakes, over 1,000 dead, and $3 billion
in damage within one month in early 2001," leading the Bush Administration to grant TPS."11
Haiti has faced similar damage without the benefit of TPS.
Since the ousting of President Aristide in February, 2004, Haiti has been devastated by
numerous storms and political violence. From February, 2004, to December, 2005, Port-au-
Prince alone witnessed 8,000 murders and 35,000 rapes and sexual assaults.lv Hurricane Jeanne
killed an estimated 3,000 Haitians later that year.v Four hurricanes struck Haiti in 2008, killing
an estimated 800 people. The city of Gonalves' 300,000 residents faced immediate crisis in the
aftermath. One in seven buildings had collapsed while an additional two thirds of the city's
buildings were damaged. From these storms, Haiti faced $900 million in damages.v The World
Health Organization noted that "the only referral hospital in Gonalves.. .was severely damaged
and cannot function as a hospital in the future." vi Without medical care, Gonalves expected an
outbreak of health problems since "all sanitation and latrines [were] virtually non-existent" and
mosquito populations were on the rise.vii Six months after the storms, Gonaives' streets and
drainage system remained clogged with mud and a new permanent lake had formed from the rain
Before the earthquake, Temporary Protected Status enjoyed broad support. Last Fall,
United Nations Special Envoy to Haiti, Bill Clinton, stated that both he and Secretary of State
Clinton support TPS.x In March of 2009 a UN expert on human rights in Haiti urged Secretary
of Homeland Security Napolitano not to deport tens of thousands of Haitians, citing the damage
inflicted by the previous years' storms.xl Democrats and Republicans alike have expressed
support for TPS in Congress. The ranking Republican in the U.S. House Foreign Affairs
Committee reiterated her support for TPS in July, 2009, after a brief visit to Haiti. With such
widespread support and this week's devastating events, President Obama must come to Haiti's
aid both here and abroad. Now is the time to assist Haitians in the U.S. so that one day they can
return to a peaceful and prosperous home.
Brian Averill has a B.A. in History from UWM and completed an internship ii1h the
Digital Library of the Caribbean at the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince in the summer of 2009.
i"After Mitch," The Economist, November 7, 1998, 33.
Eric Schmitt, "Salvadorans Illegally in U.S. Are Given Protected Status," New York Times, March 3,2001,
Sacchetti, "Temporary immigrants forge enduring ties."
'v Athena R. Kolbe and Royce A. Hutson, "Human rights abuse and other criminal violations in Port-au-Prince, Haiti:
a random survey of households," The Lancet, Volume 368, Issue 9538, (2006): 864-873.
v Neil MacFarquhar, "Living in a Sea of Mud, and Drowning in Dread," New York Times, March 23, 2009,
v, World Health Organization, "Consolidated Updated on the Health Impact of the 2008 Hurricane Season in the
Caribbean," September 18, 2008, http://www.who.int/hac/crises/update_18sept2008/en/index.html.
'x MacFarquhar, "Living in a Sea of Mud, and Drowning in Dread."
x Jacqueline Charles, "Bill Clinton sees big opportunity for Haiti," The Miami Herald, September 30, 2009,
x` OHCHR, "UN expert urges US government not to deport thousands of migrants back to hurricane-hit Haiti,"
March 6, 2009, http://www.ijdh.org/articles/article_recent_news_3-9-09.html.