Chris Blattman

What’s even better than giving money to Haiti?

Giving money to Haiti doesn’t seem like enough? Katmanda have another suggestion: grant Haitians Temporary Protected Status.

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).

To support TPS, contact the White House here. You’ll need to select “I have a policy comment”, and “Immigration” from the drop-down menu.

Alternatively, as Michael Clemens suggests, simply let their people come.

8 Responses

  1. Thanks for the Michael Clemens link. I favor some form of open borders and believe that anyone who doesn’t is either ignorant or has a bad conscience. That said, I think it’s a little bit naive when people talk about it as if it’s a development idea that just hasn’t occurred to anyone. I think the following points are pretty clear:

    1. Absent labor mobility, there’s a tendency towards divergence or at best slow convergence in the world economy, and foreign aid can’t do much about that.

    2. Labor mobility (immigration) can raise incomes quickly and dramatically, and has other beneficial side effects such as remittances and the spread of good ideas and institutions.

    3. But labor mobility tends to cause slight inconveniences to the poorer native-born strata in rich countries, such as slight erosion of wages, and perhaps, more subtly, an undermining of their moral claim to predation-by-ballot at the expense of more productive strata at home. Immigrants tend to start out a lot poorer, but rise through enterprise and hard work, and in any case to regard their lot as rather a fortunate one, relative to their fellows who were unable to come. This makes it harder for native-born voters to pose as victims and ask for handouts.

    When you hear calls for labor mobility to be allowed as a form of development aid, it is as if an appeal is being made to the conscience of the median voter in (say) the US. But if the median voter in the US obeyed the dictates of conscience we wouldn’t have immigration restrictions in the first place. Is there another way? Perhaps a World Migration Organization (WMO) which would try to influence the evolution of global property rights in such a way that firms headquartered in migration-restrictionist countries would be subject to confiscation of their assets abroad? Make Border Patrol agents subject to arrest if they set foot outside the United States?

  2. Great to see that this idea has gotten some traction; I’m optimistic that Obama will make the right call on TPS.

    I used to work on Haiti and have been there many times. I wrote up some thoughts, focusing on the question of what would happen if the U.S. allowed a temporary influx of Haitians. My one original point: the 1980 Mariel boatlift is a reasonably analogue. See my post here:

  3. Thanks for posting this, Chris. It’s a very good idea. Deportations to Haiti have already been suspended and I’m hoping that an order for TPS will follow soon.

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