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Haitians Seek Protection from US Deportation


The Haitian-American community is asking the Bush administration to grant Haitians who have fled political violence and natural disasters a temporary protected status and stop deporting them.

The United States grants temporary legal status to immigrants who were forced to leave their countries because of a natural disaster, armed conflict or other extraordinary conditions. The U.S. has granted temporary protected status to immigrants from a number of countries, including Burundi, Liberia, Somalia, Sudan, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua. Haitians in the United States are asking for the same status.

Steven Forrester, a senior policy advocate for the group "Haitian Women of Miami" says Haitians deserve protection from deportation.

"Haitians have never received temporary protection status, despite repeated catastrophes in the last few years that have killed thousands of people and left hundreds of thousands homeless," he said.

Chris Bentley, a spokesman for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, explained how the Department of Homeland Security determines who is eligible for temporary protected status.

"What we do is we rely on a country assessment that's done by the Department of State," he said. "And that information, along with other information that is collected by the director, is used to make a determination. Based on the evidence that has been collected, it has been determined that temporary protection status is not something that right now can be extended to the country of Haiti."

Bentley said either a U.S. congressman or the country seeking temporary protected status must formally request it for its nationals. So activists are calling on Haitian President Rene Preval to write to President Bush formally requesting protected status for Haitian immigrants.

Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere and dependent on remittances from abroad. Last year, Haitians working in the U.S. sent nearly a billion dollars home to their families.