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The reports arising from Haiti this morning regarding the damage wrought by the 7.0 magnitude earthquake which struck near the capital city in Haiti reveal nothing short of a catastrophe. CNN reports that the earthquake completely destroyed much of Port-Au-Prince and the State Department estimates there will be a “profound loss of life.” The International Federation of the Red Cross estimated that as many as 3 million people would be affected by the earthquake.

Certainly, the initial reaction to this devastating national disaster is to attempt to bring immediate relief to Haiti. The Miami Herald reports this morning that Florida Democratic Representative Kendrick Meek indicated he was “prepared to do whatever it takes to save lives and bring swift disaster relief to Haiti and the Haitian people at this time.” Representative Meek’s comments were echoed by Representative Debbie Wasserman-Schultz who stated that she knew “only too well how much this earthquake will add to the already immense obstacles facing the nation of people.”

After the immediate disaster relief and concern for those immediately affected by the earthquake in Haiti, attention of the United States should turn to those Haitian nationals that continue to be trapped in a broken immigration system in the United States. A system which still intends to remove Haitian immigrants back to their home country despite the disaster and resulting untenable situation mother nature has wrought. In addition to yesterday’s disastrous earthquake, Haiti was forced to endure three hurricanes as well as a tropical storm during 2008. In that year the storms killed hundreds and left the country without structural integrity. Early reports appear to reflect that the earthquake was even more damaging.

In 1990, envisioning just such a natural disaster, Congress enacted the law giving rise to “temporary protected status” which could be used to establish a temporary safe haven in the United States for foreign nationals if the attorney general determined that “there has been an earthquake, flood, drought, epidemic or other environmental disaster resulting in a substantial but temporary destruction of living conditions in the area affected.” If there is any situation that defines the need of this statute, the situation today in Haiti qualifies. In Florida, even Republicans including Lincoln and Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen have issued urgent correspondence to President Obama seeking the immediate application of temporary protected status for Haitian nationals based on the catastrophic earthquake coupled with the 2008 storms. As much as any natural disaster has ever merited the need for temporary protected status, the situation today in Haiti is the quintessential call for such action.

From here in Florida as well as throughout the United States, thousands upon thousands are calling out today for Attorney General Holder, Secretary Napolitano and President Obama to grant temporary protected status for so many in need. I certainly hope that the calls do not fall upon deaf ears.

Rusten Hurd

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