U.S. bishops urge Obama to grant Temporary Protected Status to Haiti


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Washington D.C., Jan 15, 2010 / 05:31 pm (CNA).- Cardinal Francis George, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, sent a letter to President Obama on Friday, urging him to designate Haiti a country of Temporary Protected Status (TPS).

"It is clear that Haiti merits an immediate designation of TPS after suffering the devastating 7.0 magnitude earthquake of January 12, one of the worst in Haitian history," the cardinal said on Friday.

Cardinal George explained that "a designation of TPS permits nationals of a designated nation living in the United States to reside here legally and qualify for work authorization and is based upon a determination that armed conflict, political unrest, environmental disaster, or other extraordinary and temporary conditions exist in a nation and that the return of that country's nationals would further destabilize the nation and potentially bring harm to those returned."

"Mr. President," the Chicago cardinal wrote, "by any measure, the conditions in Haiti meet the statutory requirements for TPS."

"To put it mildly, the earthquake has caused 'substantial disruption' in living conditions and Haiti is clearly 'unable to handle adequately' the return of its citizens abroad, as the TPS statute requires."

"Extending this mantle of protection to struggling Haiti is not only appropriate, but a just, compassionate, and concrete step the United States can take toward alleviating the human suffering of the Haitian people,"stated Cardinal George in his letter on Friday.

"We urge you to grant a TPS designation for Haiti as soon as possible," the prelate said.

In other efforts, Catholic Charities and various other groups in South Florida are talking about the possibility of a massive airlift to transport the thousands of children who have been orphaned by the catastrophic earthquake.

The groups have been inspired by the Operation Pedro Pan model of rescue which was used 40 years ago to help remove children from Communist Cuba in 1960. Though Catholic Charities Legal Services Executive Director Randolph McGrorty acknowledges the difference between Cuba during the revolution and Haiti, post earthquake, the objective, he said, remains the same.

McGrorty also told the Sun Sentinel that the response to help the children "has been swift and overwhelming." Officials in these groups have also been in contact with the Obama Administration to provide the children with humanitarian visas.