The New York Times reported this on Friday –
The Obama administration extended a special immigration status on Friday to Haitians living illegally in the United States that protects them from deportation for 18 months and allows them to work here.
Calling the aftermath of the earthquake “a disaster of historic proportions,” the secretary of homeland security, Janet Napolitano, said she was granting the designation, known as temporary protected status, for Haitian immigrants because their safety would be at risk if they were deported.
Administration officials said the special status would cover at least 100,000 Haitians believed to be living in the United States illegally, as well as about 30,000 Haitians who had been ordered deported. Haitians who receive the temporary status will be able to obtain documents allowing them to live here and work legally.
This was a humane decision. I have been wondering however, how much longer US sympathy for Haitians will last if large numbers of new refugees begin to arrive on these shores.
So far, Americans have responded generously, but from our limited conversations with residents in Miami (where Anna and I are currently waiting for our next move) we have detected a growing sense of concern at what may lie down the road. People have evoked memories of the 1980 Mariel Boatlift of Cubans, which led to camps being set up around the city.
Some very kind parents who offered us lunch today said they were hearing mutterings of a less than sympathetic nature. Another resident specifically noted that many houses around a nearby park still had security bars from the Mariel days, which brought with it an influx of former Cuban criminals. (An issue immortalised in the early scenes of Scarface).
Any refugee crisis is difficult, for both refugees and host communities, but destitute Haitians might have particularly little capacity to adapt. Let us hope the world manages to set up an aid operation of sufficient quality that such a migration need not take place.
Meanwhile, this is a new update of the US response:
United States Government Haiti Earthquake Disaster Response Update
On January 12, 2010, a massive earthquake struck the nation of Haiti, causing catastrophic damage inside and around the capital city of Port-au-Prince. President Obama has promised the people of Haiti that “you will not be forsaken; you will not be forgotten.” The United States Government has mobilized resources and manpower to aid in the relief effort. Below please find some key facts and examples of government actions to date.
All numbers below are accurate as of noon Sunday, January 17, 2010
AIRPORTS AND AIRSPACE
* The airfield is open for 24/7 operations and has a 100-aircraft
per day capacity, this is an increase from yesterday’s 60 aircraft per day capacity.
* The airport has received more than 600 short tons of supplies.
* USAF air traffic control and airfield management personnel
continue to manage air operations at the airport with approval of the Government of Haiti.
* There are 30 military helicopters providing relief to the people
* These helicopters are operating out of nine landing zones,
including five drop-off points.
* Approximately 5,800 military personnel on the ground or afloat.
* Approximately 7,500 additional military personnel are expected
to arrive by 1/18.
* More than 1,000 personnel from the 82nd Airborne Division
arrived in Haiti on 1/16.
* More than 250 HHS medical personnel have arrived in Haiti.
* 2 planeloads of medicine, medical equipment and supplies from
HHS have arrived in Haiti with a third expected to arrive today.
* 3,840 hygiene kits taken from USAID stockpiles in Miami have
* The USNS Comfort is currently underway and expected to arrive on
1/20 with 600 medical personal on board.
EVACUATION AND RESCUES
* As of 0900 a total of 1,760 American citizens have been
airlifted out of Haiti.
* USAID/DART reported that a U.S. Urban Search and Rescue (USAR)
team had rescued an additional three individuals at the Caribbean Market.
* As of 0900, US USAR teams have rescued 26 individuals.
* There are currently six US USAR teams operating in Haiti along
with 21 international USAR teams from around the world. US teams are based out of Fairfax VA, Los Angeles CA, Miami FL (two teams), New York NY and Virginia Beach VA.
* Each USAR team includes approximately 70 team members.
FOOD AND WATER
* U.S. military aircraft have airlifted 130,000 humanitarian daily
rations and more than 70,000 bottles of water to Port-au-Prince.
* Three water purification units are operational and can supply
180,000 liters per day.
* USS Carl Vinson continues to provide potable water production.
* U.S. military aircraft will continue to support the delivery of
an additional 600,000 daily rations over the next several days.
* Six additional water purification units are scheduled to arrive
in the coming days from USAID stockpiles in Dubai. Each unit provides 1000,000 liters of safe drinking water serving 10,000 people per day.
* 12,000 water containers have arrived from Miami.
* Yesterday, the U.N. World Food Program distributed high-energy
biscuits to a total of 50,000 people.
* The World Food Program Port-au-Prince metropolitan areas
schools feeding program is no serving hot meals to 50,000 affected people
How to Help Support Relief Efforts
* Contribute online through ClintonBushHaitiFund.org.
* Text “QUAKE” to 20222 to charge a $10 donation to the Clinton
Bush Haiti Fund (the donation will be added to your cell phone bill).
* Find more ways to help through the Center for International
Get Information about Friends or Family
The State Department Operations Center has set up the following phone number for Americans seeking information about family members in Haiti:
1-888-407-4747 (due to heavy volume, some callers may receive a recording). You can also send an email to the State Department. Please be aware that communications within Haiti are very difficult at this time.