Comment: Japan And Haiti - The recent 9.0 earthquake in Japan (fifth largest in the world since 1900) and the ensuing tsunami have wrecked havoc on the towns on Japan's northeast coast. Since the casualty figures from those towns still number in the hundreds, and since those towns were about 90% destroyed, the official count of 20,000+ dead and missing is likely to be revised upward significantly as the weeks ahead unfold, perhaps into the 50,000 to 100,000 range. As sad as this destruction is, this does not represent a catastrophe for immigration purposes, in terms of needing a US government immigration initiative – in other words TPS for Japanese nationals would not be wise. On the other hand, the Haitian situation, even one year into the earthquake disaster there, constitutes an ongoing immigration crisis for the US, and necessitates a generous benefits policy, here's why:
1) The Haitian calamity of 2010 caused over 200,000 deaths, making it one of the top 10 natural disasters of all time. Japan's disaster, by contrast, would not even make it into the top 10 of the last 100 years, even if the death toll in Japan rose to 100,000. More importantly, in terms of the percentage of the population killed (Japan has over 12 times the population of Haiti, hence at least 12 times the ability to recover), Haiti's misfortune is about 2,500% of Japan's on percentage of population grounds alone. Add to this the fact that the GDP per capita in Japan is over 30 times as much as in Haiti (we are, after all, here comparing one of the world's richest countries with one of the poorest). This gives Japan the economic wherewithal to absorb the blow, a luxury that Haiti lacks (indeed, economic analysis of the tragedy in Japan shows minimal economic impact). To put all the above into a nutshell, Japan can take care of itself, Haiti plainly couldn't, and still can't.
2) Of much greater import from an immigration viewpoint, even should Japan and Haiti be evenly matched in terms of population and wealth, it is the distance from US shores that is dispositive in determining US policy. A humanitarian crisis in a nation a relatively short boat ride away constitutes an immediate concern, one in a nation at the other side of the Pacific is a lot less significant. As proof of this point is the fact that to this day the US Navy and Coast Guard continue to cordon off Haiti, to prevent "boat people" arriving on Florida's shores, no such deployment will ever be necessary for Japan or any nation situated far away from here. Distance matters in real life, and hence in making US policy. Haiti's is by far the more serious disaster as seen from US shores.
We are pleased to note that USCIS, from the highest management on down, rose to the challenge for Haiti (we are still concerned that all benefits fees were not waived for TPS applicants). On the other hand, ICE has recently decided to go back to business as usual in terms of removing Haitians. With two wars under way in Asia (the current, Republican, Secretary of Defense recently counseled against getting involved in Asian ground wars), and with offensive action under way in North Africa, our national policy on cordoning off Haiti is regrettable. USCIS, at least, can claim credit for a response in Haiti that America can look back on in pride, and more importantly, one that directly supported vital national interests.
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