Immigration

The Best Way To Help Haiti

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Let Haitians come here. Here's Michael A. Clemens in the Washington Post:

After the earthquake, the Obama administration quickly suspended the deportation of Haitians already residing illegally in the United States (a population estimated at 100,000 to 200,000) for 18 months. That's a wise and welcome step, but an insufficient one. The United States has deported only around 1,000 Haitians per year recently, so a brief halt will make a limited difference in who lives where. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton emphasized Thursday that the new policy will not apply to Haitians seeking to come here now. "Our ordinary and regular immigration laws will apply going forward, which means that we are not going to be accepting into the United States Haitians who are attempting to make it to our shores. They will be interdicted. They will be repatriated."

Yet Haitians willing to emigrate today would typically experience vast and immediate increases in their standard of living and security—a goal the administration no doubt supports. That is why so many have been willing to leave Haiti, braving ocean blockades and other risks, even before the quake. Between 1982 and 2009, the U.S. Coast Guard stopped 114,716 Haitians on their way to the United States, forcing them to go back, and such unsuccessful attempts must certainly have deterred an even larger number from even trying to leave. Last March, 51 percent of Haitians polled told Gallup that, given the opportunity, they would leave their country permanently…

 Haiti already gets close to $2 billion per year—about a third of its income—in cash remittances from its citizens living abroad. That's nearly 100 times as much as generous Americans have donated to Haiti via their cellphones. And unlike foreign aid, remittances go directly to families.

The earthquake in Haiti has laid bare the consequences of our restrictive immigration policies, particularly their effects on desperately poor people overseas. Countless Americans have been moved by the images and stories from Haiti, and have showed their solidarity and generosity with their wallets. A golden door visa to America, whether temporary or permanent, would have a larger and ultimately more lasting impact on the lives of the world's poorest, in Haiti and beyond.