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Obama administration suspends deportation of illegal immigrants to quake-hit Haiti


About 30,000 Haitians in the US facing deportation orders

15th January 2010: The Obama administration has for the time being placed under suspension the process of deporting illegal immigrants from Haiti due to devastation caused by the earthquake. In all, about 30,000 Haitians in the United States are facing deportation orders.

Already, a British team is being sent to Haiti to see offer humanitarian assistance in the wake of the Caribbean state’s devastating earthquake.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown has sent a message of sympathy and support to Haitian President Rene Garcia Preval, following the quake which measured 7.0 on the Richter scale.

The natural disaster is believed to have killed thousands of people and left tens of thousands homeless and buried under rubble.

As of now it is not clear for how long the suspension orders by the Obama administration will remain in force. According to available information, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said Haitian deportations would be halted “for the time being”. So far, she has not specified the time period.

Elaborating on the decision to hold back the deportation process, the immigration officials said the Haitians’ could be exposed to at risk if sending them back to the country shaken by the quake.

Reacting to the situation, the lawmakers and immigrant advocacy groups once again 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.

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