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Clinton: No Sign of Haitian Exodus

  • David Dyar

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Wednesday that she has seen no sign that Haitians are leaving their earthquake-ravaged country in search of refuge in the United States or elsewhere.

The Obama administration has given undocumented Haitians in the United States at the time of the earthquake a temporary amnesty.

But the United States is discouraging Haitians from trying to make the dangerous trip now and Clinton, at a press event here, said there is no indication that a large scale exodus is underway.

"We have seen no evidence of any kind of mass movement like that. [Homeland Security] Secretary [Janet] Napolitano issued the order for temporary protected status for those Haitians who are undocumented in the United States as of January 12th. But we've made it very clear that there will not be an opportunity for those who leave Haiti to be permitted to go into the United States, that we don't think it is in the interest of Haiti and [that it] would be in violation of our immigration laws," she said.

Last Friday, U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano granted a temporary amnesty, allowing undocumented Haitians to stay and work in the United States for another 18 months. She estimated that as many as 200,000 Haitians might benefit from the action.

Clinton announced that the Departments of State, Homeland Security, and Health and Human Services are establishing a joint task force to expedite the completion of adoptions of Haitian children by U.S. families that were underway when the earthquake struck.

She stressed that the effort will be carried out in close coordination with Haitian officials and in accordance with international adoption laws and procedures to prevent child trafficking and other abuses.

"We will not let red tape [i.e., bureaucratic delays] stand in the way of helping those in need. But we will insure that international adoption procedures to protect children and families are followed. There are several hundred Americans in the United States who were already in the process adopting Haitian children before the earthquake. As a mother, I share the anxiety that they must be feeling as they wait for word about their children's safety. And we are doing everything possible to locate these children and expedite their arrival in our country," she said.

A State Department spokesman said that as of Wednesday, 146 Haitian children scheduled for adoption had been flown to the United States, and that U.S. officials are working with orphanages in Haiti on about 200 other cases.

Clinton said she will attend a Canadian-sponsored conference in Montreal on Monday to coordinate international relief for Haiti and lay the groundwork for long-term recovery and reconstruction efforts.