In the wake of the devastating earthquake in Haiti, both the U.S. and France have announced that they will stop deportations of Haitians that are residing illegally in their countries.

Well, it’s the least they could do, I guess. Some people, though, are pushing (and have been for years) to give Haitians “Temporary Protected Status” which is granted to “certain immigrants in the United States who cannot safely return to their countries because of armed conflicts, natural disasters or other emergencies.” (via the Village Voice) TPS would give recipients a visa to work for 18 months and is often renewable.  People have been pushing for this for years, because the country has  been in such a state for so long that everyday life there counts as pretty much disastrous, and it would be cruel to send anyone back who managed to make it out.

From Newsweek:

In Miami today, a variety of groups, including South Florida’s congressional delegation, immigrant advocacy organizations, and the Catholic Church, held press conferences calling on the administration to act. “If they don’t grant TPS in this situation, they have effectively repealed TPS,” says Randy McGrorty of Catholic Charities Legal Services. “This is exactly what TPS was designed for.”

You can go here to send your elected representatives a letter urging them to grant TPS to all Haitians residing in the US.

There are currently 30,000 Haitians who have been served deportation orders (one article I read estimated somehwere over 78,000 in total in the US, though apparently the 2000 census put it at about 420,000). Bush declined to give them TPS following the outbreaks of violence in 2004, and early in 2009, Obama decided to continue their deportations (see NYT). Hopefully this disaster will be the extra push needed to right a long standing imbalance in US immigration policy regarding Haitians.

There even seems to be strong local support in Florida where “all 13 commissioners for Miami-Dade County – the single area of the country that will be most affected by this change – unanimously support offering the Haitians temporary protected status.”

Higher ups are also reviewing US policy, from SFGate:

Last week, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said that the Haiti policy is “under review” and that she understood not just the importance of remittances but also “what a tremendous burden it would be on Haiti” to be forced to accommodate an influx of newly homeless deportees.

It has long been criticized that the US unfairly admits far more immigrants from the region (Cubans, Dominicans etc..) than Haitians, who, being the poorest nation in our hemisphere, one would think would be more in need of a welcome to the US. But of course, the Haitians are just so much, erm, blacker, than the Cubans, you know? And of course a politically powerful colony of expat Haitians would do nothing to piss off Fidel Castro, so why bother, right?

Also from SF Gate (emphasis mine):

One of the most powerful arguments against offering temporary protected status to Haitians is that, in practice, there’s nothing “temporary” about it. Nationals from Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador and other countries who received the designation many years ago have had their status extended over and over again. Once you offer the status to a group of foreigners, they tend to become permanent residents.

But this fact makes the Haitians’ case less about immigration and more about fairness. If immigrants from Honduras, Nicaragua and El Salvador – all countries that have done better in recent years than Haiti – if these immigrants are worthy of temporary protected status, then why not Haitians?

The Bush administration consistently failed to answer this question, resuming deportations mere months after the storms passed.

As for France, depending on where you look there are 50,000 to 80,000 Haitian nationals living there. And they’re also halting deportations. But they’ve gone one step further and are trying to get creditor nations to forgive Haiti’s debts:

France’s Economy Minister Christine Lagarde says she has contacted other members of the Paris Club to accelerate the cancellation of Haiti’s debt of nearly $78 million. Haiti did owe $84 million.  But Lagarde says about $6 million has been canceled since Tuesday’s devastating earthquake.

France chairs the Paris Club, which in July agreed to cancel most of the debt owed by Haiti, the Western Hemisphere’s poorest country. In addition to France, the Paris Club includes the United States, Britain, Japan, Russia, Germany and 13 other countries.

That one’s pretty much a no brainer, so let’s hope it passes through quickly.