Jacqueline Charles, Miami Herald, April 15, 2009
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Wednesday the Obama administration is reviewing a U.S. policy of deporting undocumented Haitians and left open the possibility of expanding travel to Havana beyond the families of Cuban exiles in the United States.
She travels Thursday to Port-au-Prince and the Dominican Republic, then links up with President Barack Obama in Port of Spain to bring a message of engagement and collaboration.
Clinton made clear that the United States would retain its policy of interdicting Haitians trying to reach Florida’s sun-drenched shores but said the administration was looking at its deportation practices involving Haitians, who help support their impoverished country with remittances.
“We are reviewing the policy, and we know what a great source of income the remittances are that flow from . . . principally the United States back to Haiti,” she said.
An estimated 30,000 Haitians are currently in the deportation pipeline, and immigration advocates argue it would be cruel to send them back to a storm-ravaged country struggling to recover from four back-to-back storms that left nearly $1 billion in damage.
Clinton said the administration was sympathetic to “what a tremendous burden it would be on Haiti if all of a sudden they were forced to accommodate the thousands of people who were otherwise working in our country.
“So we expect that we will be able to look closely at this and try to come up with some appropriate responses to the challenges posed.”
Haitian advocates want the Obama administration to add Haiti to the list of nations whose citizens here receive Temporary Protected Status. That would permit undocumented Haitian migrants to stay and work in the United States temporarily.
Clinton’s trip to Port-au-Prince Thursday follows a donors conference held Tuesday in Washington in which nations and financial organizations pledged $324 million to Haiti. Clinton stressed that the U.S. pledge of $57 million was focused on enhancing security in Haiti, investment in job creation and helping the Haitian diaspora contribute their talent to their homeland.