WASHINGTON — In a joint letter to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano February 7, Archbishop José H. Gomez, Coadjutor Archbishop of Los Angeles and chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Committee on Migration, and Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tucson, chairman of the Board of Catholic Relief Services, the U.S. bishops’ international humanitarian agency, expressed opposition to the recent resumption of deportations to the nation of Haiti.

“We are disturbed and dismayed over the January 20, 2010, deportation of 27 Haitians, one of whom is reported to have died from cholera. We ask that you cease these deportations indefinitely,” they wrote.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) of DHS announced the resumption of deportations to Haiti December 9th. Since then, about 300 Haitians have been transferred to Louisiana in advance of deportation to the stricken island nation. DHS also announced that it intends to deport 700 Haitians by the end of the year.

Citing the slow recovery from the January 12, 2010 earthquake, the outbreak of cholera, and recent civil unrest, the bishops stated that Haiti is not prepared to receive deportees.

“Now is not the time to resume deportations to Haiti, nor would it be morally or politically appropriate to do so in the foreseeable future,” they wrote. “To continue deportations in the face of such conditions would represent a knowing disregard for the life and dignity of Haitians scheduled for deportation.”

The bishops also argued that resuming deportations could communicate the wrong message to the Haitian people, who are depending upon the United States for long-term support in their effort to recover from the earthquake.

“Moreover, [the resumption of deportations] would signal to a nation struggling to recover from natural disaster that the United States is retreating from its commitment to help Haiti return to health, ” they stated.

The bishops outlined several steps DHS should take to assist Haiti, including a re-designation of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to Haiti so that Haitians who arrived after the earthquake could qualify; the extension of humanitarian parole to family members of Haitians brought to the United States for medical care; and the implementation of a family parole program for 55,000 Haitians with approved family petitions into the United States as they wait for their priority dates to become current.

The bishops argued that the adoption of these measures would ensure the continued flow of remittances to the country and would “send an important signal to the Haitian people that the United States remains committed to their long-term welfare.”

The letter concluded with a special appeal to the DHS Secretary.

“Madam Secretary, your designation of TPS for Haiti immediately after the January 12, 2010, earthquake was an important and well-received humanitarian action. We urge you not to negate that positive action with a resumption of deportations at this time.”

Full text of the letter follows.
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Temporary Protected Status brings hope to undocumented Haitians

The New York Times reports on the sometimes arduous process of applying for TPS, which on Jan. 15 the  U.S. granted to Haitians who were in the United States on Jan. 12, the date of the massive earthquake in Haiti.

For three hours, dozens of Haitian immigrants filed through the grand foyer of the New York City Bar building in Midtown Manhattan, and up to two large conference rooms. There, more than 180 volunteer lawyers, paralegals and interpreters explained the new designation — in English, French and Creole — and helped fill out applications.

… many clients who came seemed relieved, even exhilarated, to begin the process. Some said the new status would allow them to find legal work and help support relatives in Haiti. Others said they hoped to apply for government financial aid for college.

Read the full story here.

Temporary Protection for Haitians: A first step

Writing in New America Media, Shaina Aber & Christian Fuchs of Jesuit Refugee Service/USA argue that the TPS granted to Haitians in the United States last week is just the first step of a rebuilding process in that country.

The decision by the United States last week to grant Haitians in the United States permission to stay, work and send remittances home under a Temporary Protected Status (TPS) program is welcome news. This move was an essential first step in response to the catastrophic earthquake that struck Haiti on Jan. 12.

Temporary Protected Status will give Haitians who are stranded on our shores the ability to remain here during the crisis, and to work and live in the United States legally. Their remittances will allow more than $1 billion in aid to be sent to family members still suffering in the shattered island nation, thus playing a much needed role in the present relief effort. As the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, Haiti already depends significantly on remittances. By allowing some 130,000 Haitians to legally work in the U.S. and send remittances home to their loved ones in Haiti, the despair of the entire country will be reduced.

Despite this positive news, no timeline has been set for the release of Haitians who are currently being held in our immigration detention centers. This should be a priority. Now that TPS has been approved and deportations have ceased, those held in detention facilities should be discharged quickly and given the opportunity to work and reconnect with their families.

Read the article here.

TAKE ACTION: Time is now for TPS for Haiti

Immigrations & Customs Enforcement earlier today announced they were suspending deportations of Haitians in the United States:

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Assistant Secretary John Morton today halted all removals to Haiti for the time being in response to the devastation caused by yesterday’s earthquake. ICE continues to closely monitor the situation.

Jesuit Refugee Service/USA believes the U.S. should grant Temporary Protected Status to Haitians in the U.S., and we urge you to take action today to urge the White House and Congress to grant TPS to Haitian nationals in the United States, allowing the Haitian government the time it needs to invest its limited resources into rebuilding the country and offering emergency relief to its suffering citizens following a devastating earthquake which rocked the nation on the afternoon of January 12, 2010.
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Statement on Haiti from Jesuit Refugee Service

Jesuit Refugee Service – Latin America & Caribbean Region shares with the people of the area the great pain wrought by successive natural disasters that have struck our sister country of Haiti.

We raise our prayers and encourage the commitment to solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Haiti, guided by the example of the Good Samaritan of the Gospel.

Aid to Haiti will be coordinated through the JRS Dominican Republic office, which is under the direction of Fr. Mario Serrano, S.J.

Additionally, the centers of the Society of Jesus in the Dominican Rep. (Santo Domingo: Centro Bono and Alberto Hurtado; Santiago: Centro Bellarmine and Cephas Dajabón: Border Solidarity) have established a support network to aid earthquake victims in Haiti.

– Fr. Alfredo Infante, S.J., Regional Director of JRS – LAC.

Hastings amendment studies immigration policies aimed at Haiti

Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-Miramar) voted in favor of H.R. 3619, the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2009. Included in the Act was an amendment introduced by Hastings that directs the Secretary of the department in which the Coast Guard is operating to conduct a study examining the Coast Guard’s ability to respond to the effects of possible changes in U.S. immigration policies toward Haiti. (Click here for a PDF copy of the amendment.)

“Changes in immigration policies affecting Haiti are nothing new.” Hastings said. “In fact, it was just over ten years ago that Congress passed the Haitian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act, which affected far more Haitian nationals than any of the currently proposed policies would affect.

“TPS, or some other comparable relief, for our Haitian neighbors is long overdue, and this administration has been stalling for far too long. This study will hopefully help us show that our government has rationally and realistically examined all possible results and that we are well equipped to contend with any possible effects.”
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