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'Total amnesty' for Haitians

Published:Thursday | January 21, 2010 | 12:00 AM


Days after the Obama administration granted Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to tens of thousands of Haitians living illegally in the United States, a Jamaican-born legislator is calling for "total amnesty" for the undocumented immigrants from the earthquake-wrecked country.

New York State Assemblyman Nick Perry, who represents the predominantly Caribbean 58th Assembly District in Brooklyn, said the 18-month TPS is too short a reprieve for Haitians.

"The best thing America can do for Haitians is to put the Amnesty bill in quick motion," Perry told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC), after the US granted the much-touted TPS to an estimated 100,000 Haitians living illegally here.

"That would benefit the Haitians here and elevate their status to permanent residence," added Perry, who had earlier joined a host of legislators and community activists in calling on the US to grant TPS to the Haitians.

"Haiti is a special case. People who are here have nothing to go back to," he said, warning that if the US does not grant the amnesty, the impoverished, French-speaking Caribbean country could become a 'protectorate' state.

"It's likely that America will be de facto running Haiti. America will have so much responsibility in keeping order that Haiti will be in a protectorate status. Short of that, Haiti will be another Somalia."

In addition, the assemblyman said amnesty for Haitians in the US would enable them to help build back their homeland following the powerful earthquake that virtually flattened the capital, leaving an estimated 100,000 people dead.

"This is what America should consider as part of its humanitarian response," he said.

Last Friday, US Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano announced TPS for Haitians "living and working in our country for the next 18 months."

"Providing a temporary refuge for Haitian nationals whose personal safety would be endangered by returning to Haiti is part of this administration's continuing effort to support Haiti's recovery," she said in a statement.

Jamaican-American Congress-woman Yvette D. Clarke, who represents the 11th Congressional District in Brooklyn, the largest district of Caribbean immigrants in the US, has welcomed the latest initiative by the US.