The heading of an article in The Washington Post caught my attention. It reads “Officials Try to Prevent Haitian earthquake refugees from coming to the U.S.” Many Americans feel that if just one Haitian enters this country as a result of the earthquake, he/she will overburden our schools, hospitals, and welfare rolls while increasing already high unemployment rates. However, America can accept as many as 80,000 new refugees.
The massive earthquake that shook Haiti and the devastation that ensued have increased fear in America of a mass exodus from that country to the US. This fear prompted Homeland Security Secretary, Janet Napolitano, to make the following statement on Saturday. “Please: If any Haitians are watching, there may be an impulse to leave the island and to come here . . . This is a very dangerous crossing. Lives are lost every time people try to make this crossing.” Napolitano then added that Haitians caught at sea will be repatriated (sent back to Haiti).
However, many are not aware that Presidents authorize the number of refugees that will enter the US every year. In 2008, President George W. Bush authorized the admission of up to 80,000 refugees for fiscal year 2009. In 2009, President Obama authorized the admission of up to 80,000 refugees for fiscal year 2010. This was done on September 30, 2009, when the President signed Presidential Determination No. 2009-32. At the time of the signing, the refugees authorized for admission were to come from the following regions:
Africa . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15,500
East Asia . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17,000
Europe and Central Asia . . . . . . . .2,500
Latin America/Caribbean . . . . . . . .5,000
Near East/South Asia . . . . . . . . . .35,000
Unallocated Reserve . . . . . . . . . . . 5,000
The Memorandum to the Secretary of State which is attached to Determination No. 2009-32, states that the admission of up to 80,000 refugees to the United States during Fiscal Year (FY) 2010 is justified by humanitarian concerns or is otherwise in the national interest. The Memorandum also gives permission to the Secretary of State to transfer unused admissions allocated to a particular region to one or more other regions, if there is a need for greater admissions for the region or regions to which the admissions are being transferred.
In the Memorandum, the President also specified which persons may be considered refugees for the purpose of admission to the United States. They are:
a. Persons in Cuba
b. Persons in the former Soviet Union
c. Persons in Iraq
d. In exceptional circumstances, persons identified by a United States Embassy in any location.
So, although Haitians who survived the earthquake may not be considered to be refugees (as defined by Immigration and Nationality Act), there are humanitarian concerns and exceptional circumstances which exist in Haiti today which may justify the admission of some Haitians into the United States.
The solution to the problem of what happens to post-earthquake Haiti must be a multi-faceted one which must include the international community. While America cannot accept all of these earthquake survivors, it can definitely accept some.
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Filed under: Current Events, legal, Social Issues Tagged: | Haitian earthquake refugees, Haitian refugees, Haitians repatriated, Immigration and Nationality Act, post-earthquake Haiti, Presidential Determination No. 2009-32, Wendy Phillips