HAITIAN-AMERICAN GRASSROOTS COALITION-PURSUING ANOTHER DECADE OF HAITIAN ADVOCACY IN THE US AND ABROAD
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HAITI will never be the same again as its people grapple with its new reality and pressured to answer centennials aged question: how do we co-exist with each other and agree that rich and poor must share a common destiny in this land liberated in blood and whose founders and warriors proclaimed the universal freedom of men?
CATASTROPHIC DISASTER DEVASTATED THE ISLAND NATION OF HAITI ITS CAPITAL CITY OF PORT-AU-PRINCE AND MAJOR LANDMARKS IN RUINES
On January 12, 2010 at about 5:00 pm a major earthquake measured 7>0 on the Ricther Scale hits severely Haiti. Since that day, it has been a race against time to save those who are burried under the rubbles. Despite major efforts by rescuers dispatched by the international community, the United States specifically, that took controle of the Toussaint Louverture Airport, only 132 people were rescued according to the latest figures reported by the United Nations which also suffered heavy casualty in the catastroph, the worst in the organization's history. The search and rescue efforts which ended in on January 23, 2010 represents phase -one of the response to the disaster. The performance of the National Government appears as weak according press reports and other statemen from the region.
Three days after the disaster, President Obama declared that HAITI was PRIORITY NUMBER ONE for his Administration. THe 82nd Airborne along with the U.S Coast Guard and the NAVY have been deployed in the Bay of Port-au-Prince to land a hand in caring for the victims that approximately number ed to over i million individuals that either injured or homeless. This seism has provoqued over 50 aftershcks in its aftermath.
The rebuilding of Haiti presents many challenges for both, local authorities and the Haitin People themselves. The major question at the mind of many is what kind of Haiti that Haitians want to rebuild? As the United States Vice-President Joe Biden mentioned to a group of Haitian-American Leaders in Little Haiti a few days after the disaster, the rebuilding of Haiti belongs to Haitians and this represents an opportunity to make it right. Lavarice Gaudin, the head of Veye Yo in Miami who was on the ground in the early days of the search and rescue describes the situation as hell on earth. The CNN viewers all over the world witnessed the heroic efforts of the Haitian people that is described by observers as Haiti's Armageddon. THe United States Department of State has established an 888 number to faciliate U.S Citizens and Residents to get information about their love ones in Haiti. The number is 1-888-407-4747.
OBA ADMINISTRATION GRANTS TEMPORARY PROTECTED STATUS (TPS) DESIGNATION TO HAITIAN NATIONALS IN THE UNITED STATES
Although Haitian-Americans are pleased with the Obama Administration to grant Temporary Protected Status (TPS) Designation to Haitian Nationals as a result of the earthquake, Haitian Advocates are poised to remind everyone, that the homeland did an epic earthquake that brought with it over 300,000 lives in order to get TPS. This is a measure paid in blood. It did not have to happen that way.
The TPS Campaign was initiated by the Haitian-American Grassroots Colaition (HAGC) in December 2003 as the Aristide Government was gripped with internal rebellions that would end his government on February 28, 2004. The homeland, Haiti, having turned into a killing field for opponents and government forces alike. As the country was engulfing itself into a civil war in late December 2003, HAGC called a press conference in order to request to the Bush Administration to consider granting the Temporary Protected Status designation to Haitian Nationals currently living in the United States due to civil strife in Haiti. Despite efforts conducted by several policymakers, including Democrats and Republicans lawmakers, the Administration continued to ignore the issue. Repeated requests sent to Governor Jeb Bush in Florida to intercede before his brother George W. Bush was to no avail. HAGC and members organizations sent to Haiti a delegation under the regime of Rene Garcia Preval in March 2006 in Port-au-Prince in order to petition his government on the urgency to request formally to the U.S Government to issue this measure to Haitian Nationals. After 14 months, President Preval during his first meeting at the White House with President Bush made the TPS request which at the time was denied. President Bush let Mr. Preval understand that his Administration was working in a major immigration amnesty package for undocumented persons residing in the United States, Haitians will benefit from that measure. With famine and political instability and a series of major natural disasters hitting Haiti, HAGC redoubled its renewed efforts for TPS for Haitian Nationals. A series of protests were held in Miami targeting Governor Bush who bought into the Administration rationale that if TPS was granted to Haitians, America would send a bad signal to Haitians back home and the measire could trigger a Cuban style Mariel Boatlift taking place reminding Americans the Cuban refugee crisis of the 1980's. Federal Agencies such the U.S Coast Guards, the National Security Council (NSC), the United States Department of State, and the Immigration and Naturalization Service advised against such measure. During that period, HAGC conducted its own migration study for the past 25 years, the results show that contrary to America's public perception, the trigger mechanism that propels Haitians Refugees to adventure themselves in high seas is not economic. The main factors that drive this phenomenon ids political instability. By mining the data for the past 25 years, it was evident that incidents of boatload of refugees landing in the U.S or intercepted in high seas by the U.S Coast Guards were connected with political upheaval in Haiti itself. In addition, when the Clinton Administration granted 50,000 Haitian Refugees the rights to get their Green Card or LPR enabling them to live in the U.S., this action from U.S Authorities did not generate any adverse effect pushing Haitians back home to take to the sea thingking they can enter freely in America to get also immigration benefits.
With the arrival of President Barrack Obama in the White House in 2009, there was high expectation and anticipation that the new president will make it right by Haitian Refugees. Despite an open dialogue with high officials in the Administration, Haitian Advocates quickly learnt that the Administration was continuing the same Bush Haitian Immigration Policy by using the same rationale the Bush Team had used a few years before. The Administration had concerns that Repub;ican extremists will use the TPS issue in order to undermine the President's immigration policy.
Then out of the blue, came January 12, 2010 when the Island Nation of Haiti was hit by the worst natural disaster that hit the West in modern times with over 300,000 fatalities and one third of the nation in ruins. HAGC on January 14, 2010 hold a press conference to make a last stand for temporary protected status designation for Haitian Nationals curently residing in the United States. On January 16, 2010, Haitian Advocates nationwide were elated i n hearing the news that President Obama finally agreed to signon on TPS for Haitians.
Still the struggle was not over yet as Haitian Refugees with tourist visas fled their homeland to settle in America. Given their immigration status, these refugees were not eligible to receive any government benefits. HAGC initiated a dialogue with the Administration in order to include the Haiti Quake Victims (HQVs) under the TPS Designation. This past July, Haitians Advocates were again elated with the wise decision of the Administration to include this category under TPS also.
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HAGC petitioned the Organization of American States (OAS) to co-convene the Haitian Diaspora in a global conference to begin the arduous tasks of the Haiti Reconstruction March 21-23, 2010.. At the OAS Headquarters in Washington DC concluding the conference are Haitian Diaspora Representatives: Mr. Jean M. Theodate representing France, Jean-Robert Lafortune, Representing the United States, Ambassador Albert Ramdin, OAS Assistant General Secretary, Haiti Minister for the Ministry of Haitians Living Abroad, (MHAVE) Edwin Paraison and Mr. Eric Faustin representing Canada
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