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Haiti Response

by Susan Krehbiel of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service

Like you, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service is deeply concerned about the situation in Haiti following the January 12 earthquake. Our hearts go out to the people of Haiti and the approximately 1 million Haitians living in the United States and elsewhere who are coping with the devastation and the loss of loved ones.

Response So Far

LIRS’s service expertise has allowed us to take the following actions:

  • Called for temporary protected status (TPS) for Haitians residing in the United States. The Department of Homeland Security responded quickly, announcing the establishment of a TPS program on January 15. The LIRS board of directors sent a letter of thanks to the Obama administration.
  • Presented a live webinar, “Applying for Temporary Protected Status for Haitians in the United States,” on January 22. More than 1,000 people registered for the event. Webinar notes and audio are available for download. 
  • Identified Haitian children in federal custody who are in our children’s services caseload and may now be eligible for TPS or release.
  • Identified needs and resources in our networks including law firms interested in assisting with TPS, educational and outreach materials for the Haitian community, Haitian staff members, and Haitian foster care providers.
  • Briefed Congress on Protection Needs of Children in a Congressional Hearing January 27, 2010. Read briefing statement.
  • Issued a statement promoting best interests of separated and unaccompanied Haitian children. Read statement.
  • Briefed Congress on Haitian Migration and the US Response February 4, 2010 Statement

Continued Response

Please check back for updates on the following ongoing activities:

  • Participating in calls with government officials and nongovernmental organizations to discuss policies and advocacy steps.
  • Issuing calls for advocacy for fair and humane considerations for Haitian immigrants and their families. Join the LIRS Action Network to receive e-mail updates and alerts.

Partners’ Response

  • Lutheran Services Florida, an LIRS resettlement partner, has been providing “repatriation reception services” to Haitians and U.S. citizens who have been airlifted from Haiti and providing interpreters for local agencies serving Haitian children.
  • Lutheran World Relief and Lutheran World Federation are on the ground in Haiti providing relief services including water and water purification, food, fuel, and temporary shelter.
  • Refugee Council USA, a coalition of organizations, including LIRS, that serve refugees, is in continuing communication with federal agencies to keep apprised of updates and share concerns on issues such as TPS, interdiction and detention policies.

About The Author

Susan Krehbiel is the Vice President for Protection and Programs in Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service. Since 1939, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) has worked to create welcoming communities for newcomersóimmigrants and refugeesówho have been forced to leave their homes and begin anew. LIRS helps people seeking safety from persecution in their home countries and reunites families torn apart by conflict. LIRS resettles refugees. LIRS protects vulnerable children who arrive alone in the United States. LIRS advocates for compassion and justice for all migrants. LIRS is a champion for all uprooted people.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.