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Haiti Cannot Wait: an Open Letter to President Obama

James E. Johnson Jr. • Jan 13, 2010

Dear President Obama,

Haitians should not be made to wait any longer for Temporary Protected Status (TPS). You’ve been in office for nearly a year, which provided ample time for your administration sign off on TPS for Haitians. As the U.S. continues to delay temporary protected status for Haitians the situation in Haiti becomes direr.

Yesterday’s earthquake is just the latest disaster the people of Haiti have suffered in the last few years. In August and September of 2008, Haiti was hit by four consecutive hurricanes (Fay, Gustav, Hanna and Ike) which killed over 800 people, displaced tens of thousands of Haitians and devastated the Haitian economy. If there was ever a country which fit the description and had a need for temporary protective status, it is Haiti.

It is difficult to understand why the Bush administration refused to give temporary protective status to Haitians living in the U.S. in 2008. Haiti fits the very definition of the law which states, “Temporary Protected Status is for foreign nationals currently residing in the U.S. whose homeland conditions are recognized by the US government as being temporarily unsafe or overly dangerous to return to (e.g., war, earthquake, flood, drought, or other extraordinary and temporary conditions.” TPS does not lead to permanent resident status. As the name indicates, it is temporary, granted anywhere from 6-18 months, with extensions.

You can now reverse this wrong decision, and I urge you to do so immediately. TPS is one of the best ways to help Haiti recover from these disasters. It would permit Haitians in the United States currently without proper legal status to apply for work permits and legally seek employment in the U.S. This, in turn, would give them the opportunity to send remittances to family members living in Haiti, and would do more to help the Haitians help themselves than temporary handouts.

I urge you to revisit the requests for TPS for Haitians from:

Organizations such as the NAACP and US Conference of Catholic Bishops
Newspapers including The New York Times and the Washington Post
Your good friend Senator Ted Kennedy and others

Mr. President, please do not fiddle while Haiti burns. Haitians cannot wait.


James E. Johnson Jr.

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