Citing humanitarian concerns caused by four hurricane strikes, political unrest, and food shortages in the Caribbean nation of Haiti, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has asked President George W. Bush to grant the country Temporary Protected Status (TPS).
A TPS designation for a country permits nationals to reside in the U.S. legally and to qualify for work authorization.
Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, made the request in a letter dated October 8.
“The United States Catholic Bishops Conference has a long history of serving the Haitian community, both in the United States and in Haiti, and has first-hand knowledge of the great humanitarian challenges facing the Haitian people,” Cardinal George began.
“Haiti meets the standard for TPS because it has experienced political tumult, four natural disasters, and severe food shortages in the last eight months alone, not to mention the devastation of Hurricane Jeanne in 2004,” he argued.
The cardinal cited protests of food prices in April, as well as the August and September passages of Hurricanes Gustav and Ike and Tropical Storms Fay and Hanna. The storms caused severe damage and killed almost 700 people while flooding homes, cropland, roads, and bridges.
“Over 90 percent of Haiti has been impacted,” Cardinal George emphasized. “Tens of thousands have been displaced, and the fate of thousands more is unknown. More than 300,000 children have been affected.”
The cardinal asserted that conditions in Haiti are at least as bad as other countries given TPS designation, such as El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Honduras.
He also countered claims that a TPS designation would cause a “boatlift” which would bring thousands of Haitians to the United States. Arguing that no such boatlift occurred in recent episodes of political unrest, he added that most Haitian water craft have been destroyed by the recent storms.
Cardinal George commented that TPS status for Haiti would allow Haitian nationals already in the U.S. to send “much-needed” remittances to their homeland, noting that the $1.83 billion in remittances received in Haiti last year amounted to about 35 percent of the country’s gross domestic product.
“It is critical that this life-blood of the fragile Haitian economy be sustained,” he urged, concluding:
“Extending this mantle of protection to struggling Haiti is a just, compassionate, and concrete step the United States can take toward alleviating the human suffering of the Haitian people.”