One year ago, Haiti was ravaged by a devastating earthquake that killed more than 230,000 people and destroyed the homes and families of millions more. Since then, you and many others have stepped forward to give and advocate for relief funding, push for temporary protected status for Haitian immigrants in the U.S., and persuade the IMF to drop Haiti’s $268 million debt once and for all. But while the support of the international community has saved many lives, a year later, conditions in Haiti are still perilous, with more than 3,400 people dead from a cholera outbreak, most of the rubble not cleared, and still close to a million people left without permanent housing.
With thousands of NGOs and many governments focusing on relief and reconstruction, more should have been done by now. But a lack of Haitian voices in the process has resulted in much less than if they had been more included. On this anniversary, we need to remind our government they need to really listen to and work with Haitian civil society and government as they move forward.
While continuing to send generous and more effective aid to Haiti, the Obama administration could also help thousands of Haitian migrants by easing immigration rules. 55,000 family members of Haitians in the United States had been approved for visas prior to the earthquake, but because of a U.S. backlog in admitting approved visa-holders, they still could face more than four years of waiting in Haiti, leaving them in a precarious limbo. The administration could cut the red tape and admit them immediately, but they will only do it if we push them to. The administration could also reverse the decision to resume deportations of Haitians with criminal convictions given the emergency conditions in Haiti. These people will be deported to detention centers where the cholera epidemic could claim their lives.
So please join us in asking our government to do all they can to support the Haitian people today.
This morning, our partners at American Jewish World Service and Catholic Relief Services held an interfaith event in Congress to reflect on the tragedy and offer prayers for the Haitian people during this difficult time. Wherever you are today, we hope you’ll join us in offering both your thoughts and actions of support to the millions of people in Haiti as they continue on their hard journey to recovery.