The Biden administration looked toward the unraveling and desperate situation in Haiti this week and recognized the suffering of a beleaguered people.
Acknowledging that “extraordinary” conditions exist in the Caribbean nation, so close to Florida’s shores, the Biden administration on Monday extended and expanded legal protections for undocumented Haitians living in the United States.
It was the right thing to do, given the disturbing surge in political upheaval and economic troubles in Haiti.
Temporary Protection Status, or TPS, is heartening news for up to 100,000 Haitians. Some of them have arrived in the last few months as Haiti undergoes the largest migration crisis by sea in nearly 20 years.
Life in Haiti, as difficult as it has been, has only worsened since last year’s assassination of President Jovenel Moise, his murder still unsolved 17 months later. The brazen murder of Moise, ambushed and killed in his bedroom, aggravated the already terrible situation for Haiti, sending it deeper into crisis. The country’s ills are many: political turmoil, murderous gangs , rampant kidnappings, crippling fuel shortages, lack of safe drinking water and medicine and, recently, a return of deadly cholera.
Despite pleas from some Haitian leaders and those living safely in the U.S., the Biden administration has not interfered militarily in Haiti. We understand the reluctance and the history.
So what else can the U.S. do? Even its recent promise to sanction those who support and finance gangs appears to be hitting stumbling blocks, as some Haitian nationals have legal protections in the U.S. because of citizenship or U.S. residency status.
The mantra that “this is a Haitian problem to be solved by Haitians” isn’t working. Although we understand the reasoning, the U.S. must try to create a path toward solving this crisis and addressing the long-term needs of the country.
The United States has not been shielded from blame or criticism for its past failed policies when it comes to Haiti. But the Biden administration needs to do more than just hope law and order will miraculously return a failing state overruled by gangs into something better, or that other countries will step up. There is no indication that either will happen, at least not anytime soon.
In the five decades since the first Haitian “boat people” arrived here, efforts to help Haiti have failed miserably. But there are things we can do: For example, the country still needs a U.S. ambassador in Port-au-Prince. An ambassador would show Haitians that its problems are under serious consideration in Haiti, and that the administration is looking to do more than wait for a “Haitian-led solution.”
Another step is for the U.S. to do more than talk — convince its partners, and Haiti’s friends, that the time has come for a collective political will to help address the country’s problems.
For now, the extended TPS status is all the good news Haitian will get from the Biden administration. They’ll take it — while waiting for more.
Miami Herald/Tribune News Service