Finding a sensible policy for Haitian immigrants

There should be room in immigration policy for special situations, such as those confronting Haitian immigrants who have put down roots in this country and whose forced return to a struggling nation would do no one any good.

When a catastrophic earthquake struck Haiti on Jan. 12, 2010, creating a humanitarian crisis for a nation already struggling as the poorest in the Western Hemisphere, the Obama administration granted Temporary Protected Status to Haitians legally living in the United States.

The policy was both benevolent and practical. Why return these individuals, when their legal status in the United States expired, to a country struggling to deal with the devastation, deaths and disruptions caused by the disaster? The problem, of course, is that eight years later Haiti, while experiencing some recovery, remains a nation beset with momentous problems. It has seen new disasters from hurricanes and crushing poverty persists.

The U.S. has repeatedly extended the TPS designation, but now the Department of Homeland Security is taking a harder line. Pointing to the temporary nature of the rule, the DHS states that it will end in July 2019 and the Haitians must return to their homeland.

About 1,200 Haitians in Connecticut and 60,000 nationwide would face a return to the country.

Southeastern Connecticut has a special relationship with Haiti and its people, with the Catholic Diocese of Norwich and other religious and charitable groups providing relief efforts there and helping the immigrant population here.

In this region many of these immigrants have jobs, children in local schools, and some of those children were born here, making them U.S. citizens. Many of these marriages include a spouse with legal status.

One might argue that allowing these individuals to remain in the country could take jobs from American citizens, but the reality is that most are working in unskilled positions not popular with the general populace and which employers are having difficulty filling given the current low unemployment numbers.

In many instances, these workers return some of their salaries to family in Haiti.

The better approach would be to look at these cases individually. If the individual has been a contributing member of our society, has strong family support and connections and is abiding by our laws, provide him or her permanent legal status.

 

 

 

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The editorial board is composed of the publisher and four journalists of varied editing and reporting backgrounds. The board's discussions and information gained from its meetings with political, civic, and business leaders drive the institutional voice of The Day, as expressed in its editorials. The editorial department operates separately from the newsroom.

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