- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 4, 2017

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

The Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) wants you to know something — and, interestingly enough, it has little to do with the political alignment of members voting against the House replacement of Obamacare on Thursday.

The CBC wants you to know that it is directly appealing to the Trump administration to “show compassion” to the tens of thousands of Haitians in the U.S. who risk being deported if their Temporary Protected Status (TPS) is not extended.

As things now stand, Haitians’ TPS will expire in July. On Tuesday the CBC, along with several hundred other national, state and faith-based organizations and leaders, made a written appeal to Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly for an 18-month extension.

As many of you know, Haiti is the poorest nation in the Northern Hemisphere and, for several reasons, can be considered a stepchild.

Still, the moral and humanitarian underpinnings of the appeal are weighty.

As the letter says: “TPS was created to provide protection to those in the United States when it is unsafe for their return home — precisely the conditions Haiti faces today.”

What are the conditions Haitians face today?

Cholera. The letter cites it as “the worst cholera epidemic in the world — killing at least 9,200 people and sickening nearly 100,000 others to date. Thousands of people continue to be sickened by the disease every year, which leads to severe dehydration, blood sugar shock, and organ failure and can kill a person in a matter of hours.”

Hurricane Matthew of October 2016. The category 4 hurricane hit “2 million people and resulted in $2.7 billion in damage, approximately 32 percent of Haiti’s GDP,” the letter says. “Tens of thousands of homes and schools were destroyed, as well as agricultural crops and livestock, exacerbating widespread hunger, political and economic instability, and the waterborne cholera epidemic. The storm surge and widespread flooding has left 1.25 million Haitians, including 800,000 children, without access to safe drinking water.”

2010 earthquake. “TPS was first granted to eligible Haitians in the U.S. in 2010, following a 7.0-magnitude earthquake which displaced 1.5 million people and caused catastrophic damage to the country’s infrastructure,” the letter notes. “Three hundred thousand buildings were leveled in Port-au-Prince alone. Sixty thousand people are still homeless as a result of the earthquake and living in camps seven years later.”

Pre-earthquake Haiti. Even before the 2010 earthquake struck, 2.5 million Haitians were living in extreme poverty, and 10 percent of the wealthiest Haitians possessed 70 percent of Haiti’s total income.

The all-important agriculture sector, hit hard by Hurricane Matthew, has yet to recover from the earthquake and still fails to produce enough food to feed the nation.

An estimated 100,000 children suffer from acute malnutrition.

Access to potable water is unavailable to half of Haiti’s households.

Haiti imports 80 percent of its food staple, rice.

U.N. peacekeepers are about to pull up stakes. Embedded in the island nation since the second coup d’etat of then-President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 2004, Haiti overseers complained that U.N. workers had become part of the country’s internal problems with corruption, sex crimes and human trafficking.

There remains, too, the threat of mosquito-borne disease. You remember Zika, right?

Well, before Hurricane Matthew gave Haiti a whipping, ScienceDaily.com gave us a heads-up for a new reason to stock up on bug juice because an older mosquito-borne virus was detected in Haiti: “Known as ‘Mayaro virus,’ it is closely related to chikungunya virus and was first isolated in Trinidad in 1954. Most reported cases, however, have been confined to small outbreaks in the Amazon. Whether this case signals the start of a new outbreak in the Caribbean region is currently unknown.”

The appellants make a solid point: “The country needs more time to recover before Haitian nationals in the U.S. can safely return.”

Sen. Marco Rubio, Florida Republican, also wants a kinder, gentler approach to the people of Haiti who already have set foot on American soil.

As he recently said: “Circumstances on the ground in Haiti remain very difficult, and many Haitians who are currently residing in Florida and other parts of the U.S. are still trying to get back on their feet after their home country’s terrible natural disasters. I earnestly hope the administration will take these concerns into account as they consider proposals to extend this temporary program.”

Ditto.

Deborah Simmons can be contacted at dsimmons@washingtontimes.com.

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