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Delegation: Grant Haitians Temporary Protected Status

March 11, 2009

Some 30,000 Haitians under orders for deportation from the U.S. are optimistic that they will find the hope promised by the Obama administration and be allowed to stay. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano met with a delegation of south Florida Congress members Tuesday; they asked her to overturn the Bush administration ruling denying Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Haitians already in the United States.

TPS is intended for nationals of countries in such turmoil that taking deportees back would undermine their stability. Haiti has been hit with four major hurricanes on the scale of Katrina, that have left the already-poor country with destroyed infrastructure, limited food, health care and schools, and soaring crime.

Congressman Kendrick Meek says it's clear that people from Haiti should qualify for TPS.

"Haitians are over-qualified with regard to natural disasters, as regards economic strife. and that is the U.S. law. We're not asking for new legislation, we're not asking for special treatment, we're just asking for equal treatment."

Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, senior member of the delegation, says deportations would split families because many Haitians have married Americans and have American children. She says they are taking their stories to the President and asking for help.

"What we want to do is help Haiti get back on its feet politically and economically."

Critics of TPS have pointed out that the U.S. has already granted financial assistance to Haiti, but Cheryl Little, founder of the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center, says the best financial aid is the remittances sent home by Haitians legally working in the U.S., some 1.6 billion dollars in 2006. But without TPS, Haitians cannot work legally, and hundreds are held in detention centers or released with electronic ankle bracelets for monitoring them. Little says even that is better than being deported immediately.

"Haitian deportees face hunger, homelessness, and grave threats to their security. We believe lives are on the line; some could indeed die."

Opponents claim there would be an onslaught of people migrating to the United States if Temporary Protected Status were granted.

Gina Presson , Public News Service - FL