Grant TPS to Haitians.

The Immigration Act of 1990 grants persons already in the United States temporary protected status (TPS) for 18 months if they come from countries suffering political or environmental upheavals -- civil wars, political instability or destructive earthquakes, volcanoes and hurricanes.

In 1997, for example, TPS was granted to citizens of Montserrat because of the eruption of the island's volcano. In 1999, it was granted to Hondurans because of Hurricane Mitch. Since 1990, it also has been used to protect in the United States citizens from other countries who cannot return to their homelands due to political instability as in the case of Burundi, El Salvador, Guatemala, Liberia, Somalia, Sudan and other nations.

The grant of TPS extends a long tradition in the United States of according temporary refuge to people whose countries are unstable. Prior to congressional passage of TPS, our government used extended voluntary departure (EVD) -- an act that had the same effect as TPS. EVD has been granted to citizens of Cuba, Czechoslovakia, Cambodia, Lebanon, Romania, Hungary and many other countries, including a grant of status by the first President Bush to several hundred thousand Chinese students who were in the United States after the Tiananmen Square demonstrations.

Haiti meets criteria.

A decision to grant TPS to Haitians in the United States should be without contest. Haiti meets both the environmental and political criteria for TPS. More than 2,500 Haitians have died from one of the worst ecological disasters on record. This disaster came on the heels of yet another environmental disaster that resulted in the deaths of more than 1,000 people in Haiti less than six months earlier.

Hurricane Jeanne's flood waters not only washed away the lives of thousands of unsuspecting and unassisted people in the city of Gonaives, but they also left tens of thousands of people homeless and hundreds of thousands of people without food or drinkable water. It also eroded vast acres of topsoil that will make planting rice and other foods necessary for survival impossible in the year to come. There is no comparable case of environmental disaster on record where we have ignored a plea for help under TPS or EVD.

In addition, Haiti is in political chaos. More than 80 percent of the country is in the hands of ex-military personnel who have threatened the interim government and have refused to lay down their weapons. The U.N. troops have said that they do not have sufficient strength to confront the ex-military, and both the ex-military and the interim government have openly declared that they intend to smuggle arms into the country because of a U.S. weapons embargo.

The interim government has initiated repressive measures against supporters of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, including shutting down radio stations and newspapers and imprisoning members of Aristide's party without adhering to Haitian law. As tens of thousands of Haitians march peacefully for Aristide's return, the interim government has misused the country's justice system to persecute Aristide's supporters.

These tactics have been roundly condemned by the international community, and our State Department has publicly questioned the continued unlawful detention of Haiti's constitutionally chosen Prime Minister Yvon Neptune. Last week, violence broke out in Gonaives when members of the interim government, including the illegally selected prime minister, Gerard Latortue, was confronted by thousands of hungry citizens when he appeared at food-distribution centers.

A travel advisory.

Kidnapping, looting, arson and random violence are at an all-time high following Aristide's departure. Members of the U.S. Embassy are restricted in their travel, and last week the State Department issued a travel advisory telling U.S. citizens not to go to Haiti.

If ever citizens of a country were deserving of TPS, it is certainly Haitians who are in the United States. President Bush should put aside election-year politics and allow the Haitians to remain.

[Source: By Ira J. Kurzban, The Miami Herald, Miami, Usa, 13Oct04]

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