US initiates steps to prevent inflow of Haitians on boats
20 January 2010: Even though the Obama administration has for the time suspended the deportation of illegal immigrants from Haiti due to devastation caused by the earthquake, America is asking Haitians not try to come to the United States.
The message warns the people of being intercepted and sent back homes, if they try to pour into the US on boats.
According to available information, a United States Air Force cargo plane equipped with radio transmitters daily hovers over the devastated country airing news and a recorded message from Haiti’s ambassador in Washington Raymond Joseph.
Reports suggest Joseph says in Creole don’t rush on boats for leaving the country. If people do that, they will face worse problems.
Elaborating, the message, according to a transcript released by the Pentagon, says: If you think you will reach the U.S. and all the doors will be wide open to you, that’s not at all the case. And they will intercept you right on the water and send you back home where you came from.”
Till date there are no indications of Haitians making attempts to flee the island by boat. The devastation has not even witnessed an exodus of Haitians into the neighboring Dominican Republic. As of now, there are about 3,000 injured people under treatment at hospitals just over the Dominican border.
In the US, the Customs officials have allowed 23 Haitians on humanitarian grounds for medical treatment, according to a spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security.
But United States officials believe the worsening conditions in Haiti in the coming weeks could spark of mass departure. As such, the campaign has been initiated to convince Haitians to stay back. Also on the cards are plans to gather up boats carrying illegal immigrants and send them to Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.
The message asking people to steer clear of the boats comes at a time when Homeland Security and Defense Department officials are taking an uncompromising stand on averting inflow from the island. As Haiti’s capital Port-au-Prince is about 700 miles from Miami, the possibility of deaths at sea or a refugee crisis in South Florida cannot be ruled out.
Even as the announcements are being made, the lawmakers and immigrant advocacy groups have renewed their calls for grant of special status that would shield Haitian immigrants in the country from deportation for an extended period and allow them to work legally.
Those seeking reconsideration include Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, both Democrats, and Representatives Lincoln and Mario Diaz-Balart of south Florida, both Republicans, as well as John C. Favalora, the Roman Catholic archbishop of Miami.
The Haitian government and advocates too have been asking Washington to grant `temporary protected status’ since late 2008.
The homeland security secretary can grant temporary protected status for a designated period for immigrants from countries facing natural disasters. As of now, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Somalia and Sudan have the status.
Haiti has been seeking the protection status following a series of natural disasters, which started with 5,000 people dead or missing in 2004 floods. Again in 2008, four intense storms killed at least 800 people and destroyed most of Haiti’s food crops.
So far successive governments have offered little relief to the Haitians on the deportation front. The Bush administration decided against granting Haitians the temporary status in December 2008. Last March, the Obama administration decided to continue deporting Haitians.