The day after an earthquake plunged Haiti into ruin and despair, the Obama administration suspended the deportation of Haitian illegal immigrants. This was sensible as well as compassionate, as Haiti obviously is in no position to repatriate 100,000 returning migrants. But halting deportations is not enough, so we applaud the administration's decision Friday to grant temporary protected status to Haitians. Doing so will permit them to stay and work in the U.S. for a limited period of 12 to 18 months.
Temporary protected status was created by Congress in 1990 for exactly this purpose: to aid immigrants who could not return to their countries because of war, natural disasters or civil strife. Haitians certainly meet the criteria as well as many other populations with protected status. Hondurans and Nicaraguans in the U.S. received protected status after Hurricane Mitch in 1998, and have had multiple extensions. Salvadorans, who fled massive earthquakes in 2001, also received their most recent extension in 2008. Liberia begged the U.S. to renew protected status for its immigrants last year, maintaining that the country, with 85% unemployment and ongoing civil strife, could neither absorb returnees nor do without their remittances of about $60 million annually. The extension was granted.