DHS has announced that it will grant TPS to Haitians living in the US as of 01/12/10. However in order to avoid encouraging Haitians to flee to the US it has also announced that any Haitians who come to the US without proper documentation subsequent to the earthquake will be detained and deported to Haiti. The latter part of this new policy will result in repatriating individuals to dangerous conditions as relief experts say that subsequent to this type of disaster food and clean water become scarce and Haiti will likely see a rise in their already high levels of water borne illnesses and malnutrition. Although the Obama administration has announced it will expedite family petitions and allow Haitians in the US on non-immigrant visas extensions of their status, it has adopted a “wait and see” approach to the single most vulnerable population in Haiti: children. Hundreds of Haitian-American families are seeking to bring their now orphaned nieces, nephews and other young family members to the US so the children can be cared for. Although mass adoptions in the wake of natural disaster can run the risk of separating children from parents who are in fact capable of caring for the children, where the foster families in the US are relatives this risk is much reduced. The Obama Administration in their press release state that extended family networks are the best way for newly orphaned children to be cared for in these situations. That is true, and where extended family networks exist in the US where the children can also have access to stability that should be allowed.
The Obama administration admits that it can take months to identify which children are truly now orphaned, and which are simply separated from their parents. Allowing family member in the US to care for these children on a temporary basis while the search for their parents continues is of vital importance to their mental and physical health. While I agree with the administration’s desire to avoid large scale adoption of Haitian orphans, reunification with extended family living in the US will allow these children to be cared for and maintain their cultural and familial bonds.
According to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the Obama administration is considering providing Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to Haitian immigrants in the US. The administration has already halted deportation proceedings for all Haitian immigrants, but needs to take this further step in order to allow Haitians in the US without authorization a legal means to remain and work to support their families. Although halting deportations is a laudable step, the Administration must go further, and at a minimum must release Haitians who are in custody waiting possible deportation to Haiti as any further detention of these immigrants without any possibility of them being removed in the near future is a violation of US law.
After the devastating earthquake in Haiti earlier this week Haitian Americans and the American community at large are struggling to find ways to help Haiti recover from this tragedy. Providing TPS and its subsequent work authorization to Haitian Americans without authorization to work would enable them to work, send remittances home, and help rebuild the country.