Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Haitian Refugees Turned Away / Illegal Haitian Immigrants Given Amnesty

This post is less 'apathetic' than most. Parts of it are almost a rant.

I've explained before, that the Lemming is 'apathetic' only in the sense that I don't care about the 'right' things. (September 9, 2007)
News during the last two days reminded me of an old game show. Except this time, it'd be 'will the real America, please stand up?'

First, The New York Times and the uncaring, heartless Amerika we've come to know so well:
"Homeless Haitians Told Not to Flee to U.S."
The New York Times (January 18, 2010)

"America has a message for the millions of Haitians left homeless and destitute by last week’s earthquake: Do not try to come to the United States.

"Every day, a United States Air Force cargo plane specially equipped with radio transmitters flies for five hours over the devastated country, broadcasting news and a recorded message from Raymond Joseph, Haiti’s ambassador in Washington.

" 'Listen, don't rush on boats to leave the country,' Mr. Joseph says in Creole, according to a transcript released by the Pentagon. 'If you do that, we'll all have even worse problems. Because, I'll be honest with you: If you think you will reach the U.S. and all the doors will be wide open to you, that's not at all the case. And they will intercept you right on the water and send you back home where you came from.'..."
Credit where credit is due: New York City's hometown paper gives a little background. If you keep reading the article, you'll see that this is the next paragraph:
"...Homeland Security and Defense Department officials say they are taking a hard line to avert a mass exodus from the island that could lead to deaths at sea or a refugee crisis in South Florida. Haiti's capital, Port-au-Prince, is about 700 miles from Miami...."
700 miles in boats of dubious seaworthiness, and likely enough overloaded? I can see where discouraging do-it-yourself boatlifts might not be an entirely cold and hardhearted policy. Drowning at sea is no fun, I've been told.

Moving along, from the Miami Herald:
"Hundreds file for Temporary Protected Status at Little Haiti church"
The Miami Herald (January 19, 2010)

" Hundreds of undocumented Haitian immigrants crowded inside Notre Dame D'Haiti Catholic Church on Monday seeking help in filing applications for Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, a special federal immigration program that will allow them to remain legally in the United States and obtain work permits.

"Getting a work permit was a priority for many of the more than 500 people, many of whom had relatives in earthquake-torn Haiti.

" 'My house in Port-au-Prince collapsed during the earthquake,' said Jacques Claudore Deravil, 50. 'I need to work to send money to my wife and children who have been sleeping in the streets since the earthquake.'

"Catholic Legal Services officials set up an office at the church, 110 NE 62nd St., to help Haitian immigrants with the extensive TPS application process...."
It's not exactly a free ride. There's federal filing fees to the tune of around $500 involved - although it's possible to fill out (yet another) government form to get a waiver from the fee.

Note well, though: that "undocumented Haitian immigrants" is a nice, polite way of saying that these folks are illegal immigrants. If you're going to be technical about it, they're a sort of criminal.

Since these folks are in America to get jobs, make money - and send it back to their kinfolk in Haiti - I've got mixed feelings.

My Ancestors were 'Them Furriners'

My ancestors, not all that long ago, got into this country for about the same reason as today's Haitians. They came in legally - although there was the bunch that came in through Canada. It's a little complicated.

I suppose a 'red white and blue-blooded American' response could be to be appalled and shocked and horrified at these foreigners breaking into this fair land - getting jobs - and sending that 100 percent all-American money back to Haiti.

Some of it, anyway. They'll have to eat, and live somewhere. And maybe buy work clothes.

Besides, looking at it as an investment - I think America would profit, in the long run, if we can help Haiti get on its feet economically. A nation of desperately poor people can't buy our exports. A nation of stinking-rich people can.

So, my inclination is to think: 'legal-schmegal, let them stay, let them get jobs, and with any luck they'll stay longer and open some new businesses.'

Limited-Time Offer: And Change Happens

Back to The Miami Herald:
"Haitians can start applying Thurs. to stay in US"
The Miami Herald (January 19, 2010)

"Haitians are so eager for information about a federal designation that will let illegal immigrants work temporarily in the U.S., they bombarded a Catholic church here even though the program doesn't start until Thursday.

"More than 1,000 Haitians lined up this week outside the Notre Dame d'Haiti Catholic Church in Miami's Little Haiti neighborhood to ask questions about how to apply for temporary protected status. Some were told to come back the following day. Others have showed up at immigration law offices and community centers elsewhere in Florida as well as New York and New Jersey.

"Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Alejandro Mayorkas said only those who were in the U.S. on the day of the earthquake or before it struck would will be eligible, and he warned that early applications would be delayed.

" 'I want a driver's license,' said Fritznel Monneus, 34, who left a hurricane-ravaged Haiti in November 2008. 'I want TPS. I want an ID. I want to be working right now.'..."

"...Although the government has cautioned the protection is temporary - 18 months - some of those applying hoped it would lead to a longer reprieve. Immigrants from Central American countries have had the designation for more than a decade after a hurricane...."
That 18 month protection isn't really all that long - and as I said before, I hope that many of these folks can stay. I think America benefits - bit time - from the imagination, drive and ambition of 'those foreigners.'

I'll admit to a bias, though. As I said before, I'm descended from foreigners.

Finally, a sort of 'historical perspective' observation:

The name of the Citizenship and Immigration Services Director is - Alejandro Mayorkas. I'm old enough to remember an America where you weren't likely to see such a sincerely non-'Anglo' name on the letterhead of a major Federal agency.

Times change.

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