IRC Supports Protection of Haitian Nationals in U.S.
In a move strongly supported by the International Rescue Committee and other refugee advocates, the Obama administration on January 15 extended special protection to Haitian nationals living in the United States.
Calling the earthquake that struck Haiti on January 12, “a disaster of historic proportions,” Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano said she was granting temporary protected status to Haitian immigrants because their lives would be in danger if they had to return to Haiti at this time.
Secretary Napolitano said that Haitians who were already in the U.S. when the earthquake struck would be offered temporary protected status for 18 months. Haitians who receive the temporary status will be able to obtain documents allowing them to live and work legally. The special status also covers some 30,000 Haitians who had previously been ordered deported. The protection will not cover Haitians who leave their country following the earthquake.
The IRC and other refugee advocates had pressed the Obama administration to grant protected status. On January 14, IRC President George Rupp wrote to Secretary Napolitano and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urging them to take action. “It is evident that the infrastructure in Haiti is not adequate to support the safe return of Haitian nationals at this time,” he wrote. Rupp added that immigrants who were granted the right to work would send money back to needy relatives in Haiti, giving them resources to rebuild.
In a separate letter to the two officials, over 50 members of the IRC Board of Directors and Overseers endorsed President Rupp’s position.
In the coming weeks, the IRC will work with the Haitian community to offer outreach and services to immigrants who are eligible for temporary protected status.