The Earthquake in Haiti: Another Way to Help

The situation in Haiti after Tuesday’s earthquake continues to defy any description other than “very, very bad.” Our thoughts are with the people in Haiti who have lost their lives, families, homes, and national treasures, as well as the many aid workers and UN officials who have been caught up in this tragedy.

If you want to give money, Chris Blattman and Laura Freschi both have good ideas and useful information. However, if you can’t give as much as you would like, or find yourself wanting to do more, then I have one further suggestion: contact the White House and tell them that you support granting Haitians Temporary Protected Status (TPS) immediately.

TPS is a form of temporary humanitarian immigration relief given to nationals of countries that have suffered severe disasters, natural or man-made. (For example, El Salvador got TPS was after the country was hit by a terrible earthquake in 2001, Honduras after Hurricane Mitch in 1999, and Burundi, Liberia, Sudan, and Somalia were designated because of ongoing armed conflicts.)

Once a country has been given TPS, its nationals who are in the United States can apply for work authorization (a very useful thing to have if, say, one needs to send money home to family members in need of medical care or a house that has not been reduced to rubble), can’t be deported or put into immigration detention (also quite handy if you’re trying to work and send money home), and can apply for travel authorization, which allows them to visit their home country and return to the US, even if they wouldn’t otherwise have a visa that would allow them back into the country (incredibly important if you have loved ones who have been badly hurt and need to visit them, or if you need to go home to attend funerals).

Designating Haiti for TPS status would provide an immediate, tremendously valuable benefit to Haitian immigrants in the United States. But, more importantly it would benefit their loved ones who remain in Haiti and are in desperate need of their assistance. TPS would increase and stabilize remittances at a time when they are absolutely vital. Equally significantly, especially in the quake’s immediate aftermath, it would allow immigrants to return to Haiti to find and help their loved ones, or to mourn those who they have lost, without jeopardizing their ability to return to the United States and support their surviving family members.

To express your support, contact the White House here. (Note from Kate: This is the White House’s generic “tell us a thing” form, so you’ll need to select “I have a policy comment” on the subject drop-down menu, choose “Immigration” from the drop-down menu that appears below and then write something to the effect of “I am writing to express my strong support for granting TPS to Haitians in the aftermath of the 1/13/10 earthquake” for the message content.)

If you’re interested in doing more, I suggest contacting the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center, and the offices of Representatives Illeana Ros-Lehtinen, Lincoln Diaz-Balart, or Mario Diaz-Balart, who have sent a joint letter to President Obama urging him to grant Haiti TPS Status.

Update: Sarah from Amnesty USA noted in the comments that several organizations have set up online petitions urging the Obama administration to grant TPS. USCRI’s is here, CREDO’s is here,’s is here. Apparently Amnesty’s will be up very soon, so you should keep an eye on their site here.

Amanda Taub


  1. For those of us who prefer to function as slacktivists and the thought of dialing a number seems like more work than an on-line petition, USCRI and CREDO both currently have actions up on their web site demanding Obama grant TPS status and Amnesty USA is in the process of getting one live.

    Amnesty USA

  2. Hi Sarah,
    I'm having some trouble finding the USCRI petition. Do you have the link? And please let us know when Amnesty USA's is up too.

  3. Tanja, I've not found evidence of a Canadian equivalent of TPS. The news coverage (this, for example: says that there's been a ban in place on deportations to Haiti for a while now, but I'm not sure what the status is of those covered by the deportation ban with regard to work / travel.

    Any Canadian immigration lawyers among our readers who can clarify this?

  4. Thanks for the help! I'm looking into with a lawyer I know who is associated with Amnesty up here. I'll post if there is anything else.

  5. Thank you for making me aware of this opportunity to help with the earthquake disaster in Haiti. Due to our current financial position I was unable to donate more than $5.00 and felt sad that I could do no more. This has given me a chance to, hopefully , make a difference.
    Again, thank you very much.
    Cindy Cary

  6. The US Dept of Homeland Security just announced it's granting TPS status to all persons of Haitian citizenship currently residing in the US.

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