What about the Haitians?
President Barack Obama signed an Executive Order on March 20, extending the temporary stay in the US of an estimated 3,500 Liberians for another 12 months. Their current stay of deportation would have expired in about 10 days on March 31st, 2009 and would have subjected them to deportation. Liberians breathed a sigh of relief.
Many are asking what about the Haitians? They are similarly situated insofar as the circumstances that led to their seeking refuge in the United States are not different than those which led to Liberians’ flight. Political upheaval, a shattered economy, a dysfunctional and feeble government, the presence of thousands of UN peacekeepers, these are the common ground that justify the presence of Haitians and Liberians on American soil.
It may be that the fear mongers are making what they believe is a crucial argument: that extending TPS to Liberians will not pull in more Liberians since they are several thousand miles away and cannot easily reach US shores, whereas granting TPS to Haitians might result in a rapid exodus from Haiti.
We have repeatedly pointed out that this is a bogus argument: it’s not based in reality. Similar arguments were made way back in 1992 after Bill Clinton won the elections. During the presidential campaign he had taken President George H. W. Bush to task for wrong-headed policies towards Haiti that he committed to change once in power. As soon as inauguration day loomed closer however, the bureaucracy at the State Department, the National Security Council and the Immigration and Naturalization Service spooked him into backing off from his commitment to have new policies in place for the Haitian refugees. How? By claiming that there had been so much boat building since the November 1992 elections that they estimated that at least 125,000 more Haitians would be sailing towards US shores by inauguration day. The evidence was allegedly collected via helicopter flights over the Haitian coastline that documented through photographs the so-called feverish activity of the Haitians. Dozens of international reporters amplified the claim with stories backing it up… except that virtually all the reports focused on just one typical boat building operation in the town of Petit Goave, just a stone’s throw from Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince.
So what about the Haitians, Mr. President? Will you listen to your good counsel or allow yourself to be spooked by the naysayers?
[updated to reflect that the number of Liberians granted a TPS extension was 3,500, not 35,000 as some media had erroneously reported]