Motley Moose – Archive

Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics

Help open our doors (borders) to Haitians!


Eitan Abramovich /AFP

The rains have come early.  People are already dying in the floods.

The photo above is from a Christian Science Monitor story

As world watches Chile earthquake, deadly floods hit quake-rocked Haiti

A man walks on a flooded path Sunday as he enters a house just outside the coastal city of Les Cayes, Haiti. As the world watched the aftermath of the Chilean earthquake, flooding triggered by heavy rain killed at least 11 people in Les Cayes, Haiti’s third-most-populous city.


As the news from Haiti slips away from the many of the headlines in the TM, the situation  in Haiti briefly resurfaced in some other headlines  when Chile was hit by the quake, but some coverage I heard only to compared “reasons” why Chile doesn’t seem to be in such as mess as Haiti is. I can’t begin to talk about how outraged I was to hear this.

Thankfully, many bloggers have continued to cover aid efforts and to raise money – but all the donations in the world are not going to prevent the second wave of death and disease as the heavy rains approach in the next few weeks.

Many of you may feel helpless – what can you do for Haiti other than send a check?

Our neighbor to the north, Canada has already taken steps to ease some of the burden.  Very simply, they are opening the doors to immeadiate immigration.

Canada to fast-track Haitian immigration  

The federal government has pledged to speed up immigration applications from Haitians with family in Canada in light of the earthquake that has ravaged the Caribbean country.

Haitians currently in Canada temporarily will also be allowed to extend their stay, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney also announced Saturday in Ottawa.

Canada Expedites Haitian Immigration After Quake (Update2)

Sponsorship applications from Canadian citizens, permanent residents and protected persons with close family members in Haiti are being given priority and about 2,000 applications are already in the queue, Jason Kenney, Canada’s immigration minister, said today in a press conference in Ottawa. Haitians in Canada also are allowed to extend their stay in the country.

“We anticipate there will be a number of new applications, which we will treat on a priority basis,” Kenney said.

Jeffrey Kahn and Aaron Zelinsky, in a Huffington Post article have offered a solution and raised a challenge to what we can do here in the US.

Very simply put.

Relax the Caps for Haitian Visa Applicants

The two-month anniversary of the Haiti quake is fast approaching. The devastation is shocking. Hundreds of thousands are dead and wounded; over a million have been displaced. The tent cities and congested hospitals of Port-au-Prince are a reminder that Haiti’s wounds are still fresh. Nevertheless, the transition to rebuilding has begun.

As the Obama Administration and Congress begin to chart the U.S. aid strategy for Haiti, we should not overlook a simple measure that could provide tremendous support for this struggling nation: Congress should temporarily relax the annual cap on lawful immigration from Haiti by permitting greater numbers of Haitians with permanent resident and U.S. citizen family members in the U.S. to emigrate here.

The Haiti redevelopment bill now under review in the Senate presents an opportunity for Congress to make additional lawful immigration possible. By adding a provision to the bill, Congress could allow for a time-limited loosening of the immigration ceilings for this earthquake-battered country.

Under U.S. immigration law, only a fixed number of eligible Haitians with family members in the U.S. can receive “green cards” each year. Congress has created an annual ceiling on immigration of this type, parceling out percentages of the yearly visa allotments based on complicated mathematical formulae. Under this model, even Haitians whose visa petitions have already been granted by the Department of Homeland Security will be required to wait several years before they advance through the backlog created by the entry limits.

They point to why this is important and to why it makes sense:

Temporarily lifting these migration caps for Haiti makes sense for two reasons. First, lifting the caps would effectively serve as economic aid to Haiti. The Haitian Diaspora sends more than one billion dollars to Haiti in remittances annually, a sum that makes up more than twenty-five percent of the Haitian gross domestic product. Combining a relaxation of immigration caps with a fast track visa regime would increase the number of Haitians legally working in the U.S. and allow for a rapid influx of cash to supplement this stream of remittances to Haiti.

Especially since the situation in Haiti grows more dire each day – donations are NOT enough.  We need to take action.

Let’s recap the conditions as they are now.

The NY Times had this coverage:

Haiti’s Futile Race Against the Rain

There were floods on Saturday in Les Cayes, in southwestern Haiti. It rained in Port-au-Prince on Thursday, and again on Saturday and Sunday night, long enough to slick the streets and make a slurry of the dirt and concrete dust. Long enough, too, to give a sense of what will happen across the country in a few weeks, when the real storms start.

Mud will wash down the mountains, and rain will overflow gutters choked with rubble and waste, turning streets into filthy rivers. Life will get even more difficult for more than a million people.

New misery and sickness will drench the displaced survivors of the Jan. 12 earthquake – like the 16,000 or so whose tents and flimsy shacks fill every available inch of the Champ de Mars, the plaza in Port-au-Prince by the cracked and crumbled National Palace, or the 70,000 who have made a city of the Petionville Club, a nine-hole golf course on a mountainside above the capital. The rainy season is the hard deadline against which Haiti’s government and relief agencies in Port-au-Prince are racing as they try to solve a paralyzing riddle: how to shelter more than a million displaced people in a densely crowded country that has no good place to put them.

Partners in Health is warning:

Shelter deteriorates for thousands in Haiti as heavy rains continue

Heavy rains hit Haiti this week as hundreds of thousands remain in makeshift shelters. The organization Partners in Health says that the need for sanitation and clean water is “extreme.” The group runs health posts for five spontaneous settlements and reports that the clinics are still seeing around 6,000 patients every week. Attention has also turned toward offering rehabilitation services for amputees and providing prosthetics to patients, but staff and supplies are still short.

Executive Director Ophelia Dahl spoke to reporters on a teleconference today. She explained witnessing hundreds of thousands of residents in Port Au Prince in flimsy shelters. With the recent rains over the past few days, she said, the conditions are deteriorating.

“So what little people have is now soaked, they’re sleeping in the rain and the makeshift shelters are already breaking down and dissolving and the conditions for these homeless and displaced people are absolutely inhuman and getting worse every single day.”

Partners in Health also said that they have stopped calling the shelters “tent cities” because it implies a structure that does not exist. Ted Constan, the group’s Chief Program Officer, said the disaster has changed the landscape, making it more precarious.

“The other thing we’ve understood is that with the earthquake there are a lot of changes to the rock and underlying aquifer in Port Au Prince so as the rain comes the water isn’t even going to go in its normal pathways so there will be flooding and mudslides in areas that have never experienced it before. Probably the worst scenario right now is if you’re on a mountainside in a settlement camp because you’re in trouble.”

Al Jazeera’s Steve Chao filed this report from the town of Grand Goave.

Haiti “quake lakes” threaten thousands downstream

Reuters also has a video you should see which I cannot embed:

First rain batters homeless Haitians

Here is the current US response to all of this from Homeland Security.

U.S. Lets Illegal Haitians Stay, Will Turn Back Refugees

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano extended temporary amnesty to Haitians who were illegally inside the U.S. before Tuesday’s earthquake, but warned that the Coast Guard would turn back any new refugees fleeing the devastation. The so-called temporary protected status, or TPS, doesn’t apply to any Haitians who may try now to get into the U.S. If refugees take to the sea-the normal reaction to turmoil throughout Haiti’s recent history-officials in the U.S. and other countries will have to grapple with how to deal with a new wave of immigrants, most of whom will arrive without visas.

Ms. Napolitano warned that no new arrivals would get amnesty and the U.S. Coast Guard and other authorities would move quickly to stop new migrants. “People should not leave Haiti with the false belief that they will be entitled to TPS in the United States,” she said. She also said, “We are seeing no signs of any sort of migration of that nature at this point.”

Yes.  No signs because the doors are closed, and Haitians know all too well the “histwa” (history) of the inequity in US policy.

In order to understand the current inaction from our Congress, and the Administration we need to be clear about that history of inequities of US immigration policy towards Haiti and Haitians.

Back in July, way before the Earthquake there was an important piece written by Andrew E. Mathis, in the Rochester Examiner entitled:

The U.S. double standard on immigration

He introduces the issue based on a Coast Guard incident that had just taken place:

The U.S. Coast Guard has rescued 113 Haitian refugees whose boat capsized near the Caribbean nation of Turks and Caicos. Perhaps as many as 80 more have not been found and they are probably dead.

These particular refugees were not heading for the United States – not this time. But in the past, refugees or migrants looking for work in the States have been caught by the Coast Guard and promptly shipped back to Haiti.

There is an insidious double standard at work in this policy, primarily because we do not do the same with Cubans who are trying to make it to American shores. Cuban migrants, regardless of their personal politics, are afforded political refugee status because of the dictatorship of Fidel Castro and are allowed to settle here.

He makes several important points (please give it a read) but what leapt out for me was his third “bullet”

3.But the Cubans are at least sort of white. And there’s the rub. Haiti is a black nation – the world’s first free black republic. Some Cubans are black (it’s a bit of a rainbow of a place racially according to my wife, who’s actually been there), but the majority are not, and there are many blancos among the Cubans who have come here. Plus they’ve set up a nice community in southern Florida to support and press for rights for Cuban refugees when they arrive here. Many are celebrities, such as Gloria Estefan and Andy Garcia, the latter of whom is apparently white enough to have passed for Italian in The Untouchables and The Godfather, Part III.

Haitians have no comparable advocacy group and there’s a good reason for that: We never let them in to establish one in the first place. I think it na├»ve to believe race does not play a factor in this process.

Haiti and Haitians have a long history here. How many Haitians currently live in the US is still a matter of debate.

Wiki cites this:

Haitian immigration persists to the present day, as evidenced in the numerous reports of major news networks, such as those of CNN or the New York Times, about the boat people disembarking on the Florida shores as recently as October 2002. One The combination of push and pull factors led Haitians to cross the Caribbean Sea, by plane or by boat, legally or illegally, in order to reach the shores of America, the perceived land of opportunity, to begin new lives. An examination of the records of the Census Bureau as well as those of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) allows for reasonable inferences about the size of the legal Haitian population currently residing in the United States. However, estimates provided by community leaders who offer assistance to the illegal population as well suggest that the actual number of the Haitian diaspora is higher than that recorded in government documents. In short, there is good reason to believe that the Haitian diaspora in the United States exceeds 850,000, and according to community leaders may be close to 1 million.

A study done for the Migration Policy Institute, Haitian Immigrants in the United States,  by Aaron Terrazas offers some interesting insights about just who are the Haitians currently here, and includes some key demographic data (see the report for details).

About one of every 20 Haitians resides in the United States.

The 535,000 Haitian immigrants in the United States represent about one-twentieth (5.5 percent) of the total population of Haiti (9.8 million in 2008).

…Haitian immigrant women were more likely to participate in the civilian labor force than foreign-born women overall.

…Nearly half of employed Haitian-born men worked in services or in construction, extraction, and transportation.

…Over one of every four employed Haitian-born women worked in healthcare support.

…Haitian immigrants were less likely to live in poverty than other immigrant groups.

A harsh portrait of what Haitians historically have faced here as “A Double Minority” in a course taught at Yale by Bernette A. Mosley-Dozier

Haitians have routinely been detained in abandoned military camps or rounded up and jailed, awaiting possible deportation. Efforts on their behalf have been consistent but not terribly effective. Throughout the Reagan years, Haitian immigrants were the victims of a cruel and almost vindictive, federal policy.

When they have either been granted asylum or have been allowed to slip into the mainstream of America, the social and economic picture has often been bleak. Those still in camps or prisons have been subject to severe depression and suicide attempts. These people left oppression, filth and poverty only to find themselves in similar conditions on American soil. The golden land of opportunity has held little opportunity for these people from Haiti. Jobs have not been easy to find for the poorly educated, poorly skilled with no command of the country’s dominant language.

The Haitian community has survived by helping each other. The more acclimated Haitians help newcomers with shelter, clothing and sometimes jobs. The U.S. government has not been supportive to Haitians. Whereas Cuban and Southeast Asian boat people received a welcome and government and community aid, Haitian boat people have received disdain and prejudice. Other refugees have had American sponsors or governmental agencies to house them, Haitians have lived in packing crates, refugee camps or crowded two and three families in a one family apartment. 1980 statistics showed that only about 6% of the Haitian population was legally employed and received the minimum wage. The other 94% get far less than the national minimum. Fear of deportation or loss of job keeps an economic blackmail, an extortion and exploitation situation cycle alive. For the poor and oppressed Haitian, there has been little difference between the horrors of Haiti and the horrors of the United States.

We can do something to remove the fear for those Haitians living under the radar, and we can also help lift the burden of finding simple shelter before the coming storms for many Haitians who have family here.

Contact the Senate Subcommittee on  Immigration, Refugees and Border Security

Democratic Members are:

Chuck Schumer, New York (Chairman)

Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont

Dianne Feinstein, California

Dick Durbin, Illinois

Sheldon Whitehouse, Rhode Island

The House has a mirror body:  Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security, and International Law Membership

Democratic members are:

Zoe Lofgren


(D) California, 16th

Howard Berman

(D) California, 28th

Sheila  Jackson Lee

(D) Texas, 18th

Maxine Waters

(D) California, 35th

Pedro Pierluisi

(D) Puerto Rico, Resident Commissioner

Luis Gutierrez

(D) Illinois, 4th

Anthony Weiner

(D) New York, 9th

Charles A. Gonzalez

(D) Texas, 20th

Judy Chu

(D) California, 32nd

Links to their offices and contact information are on each website.

I have neglected to include the names of members of The Party of NO, but if you want to spend time contacting Republicans they are listed as well.

The White House has a series of links to agencies dealing with Haiti.

Let’s make sure the President, Sec of State Clinton, Bill Clinton, and Janet Napolitano hear from us too.

We have opened our hearts, and our wallets.  Now is the time to open the door.

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