Several months ago, Haiti was hit by a devastating earthquake that disrupted their already dysfunctional third-world society. The crisis in Haiti has only been amplified over the months since the earthquake. Still barely recovering from the aftershocks, Haiti was struck by a cholera epidemic. The death toll from the plague has topped 1,000 people. In the midst of combating both the earthquake and the epidemic, Hurricane Thomas struck Haiti in October, killing 9 Haitians and causing widespread flooding that perpetuated the spread of cholera.
In the aftermath of the earthquake, government officials seemed all too willing to show their sympathy to the Haitian people. Many travelled all the way to Haiti to observe the disaster and meet with the victims. They also allowed 1200 Haitian orphans to seek refuge in the United States with the understanding that the children would be granted permanent residence. Representative Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) authored the Help Haiti Act for the purposes of expediting the process.
Receiving extensive bipartisan support, the Help Haiti Act was passed through the House and the Senate, and after being amended in the Senate, the bill was placed on the agenda for this week’s legislative session. However, Pelosi, citing “scheduling considerations,” tabled the bill on Monday. Session continued on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday with no sign of the bill being mentioned for consideration.
Word in the Halls of Congress is that Democrats wish to attach the Help Haiti Act to the controversial DREAM Act in order to make it more palatable for Republicans considering opting out of a Senate filibuster. Fortenberry addressed his colleagues in a letter, citing his concern over Pelosi’s “scheduling”:
I write to express my concern with circumstances preventing H.R. 5283, the Help HAITI Act, from coming to the Floor for a vote. I returned to Washington on Monday, anticipating the House to act to give vulnerable Haitian orphans and their adoptive American families, who have endured so much heartbreak and tragedy, the comfort of knowing they are here to stay. My bipartisan measure, the Help HAITI Act, was originally passed by the House on July 20, 2010, then was amended and passed by the Senate on August 4, 2010. I, along with numerous colleagues and members of the international adoption community, was pleased to see its inclusion on Monday’s suspensions list.
I was then surprised when it was pulled from legislative business on Monday, and with the consequent secrecy about its current status. My office has heard reports that this critical legislative fix, which would clear legal obstacles to U.S. citizenship for as many as 1200 Haitian orphans who were in the process of being adopted before the January 12 earthquake, may be used as a vehicle for a controversial immigration measure.
However, this past Thursday, Harry Reid announced his desire to introduce the bill on the senate floor. In the event of a senate introduction, the concern that the Help Haiti Act would be attached to the DREAM Act would disappear. But in the unfortunate case that the Help Haiti Act is written in with the DREAM Act, the decision for GOP representatives is a simple “no.” We cannot allow the DREAM Act to pass, and if necessary, the GOP must postpone legislation on the Help Haiti Act until 2011. It is unfortunate that the Haitian ethnicity is not a large enough minority demographic to merit the attention of Congressional Democrats. They would much prefer to use Haitian orphans as political collateral to establish a powerful liberal voting bloc through the passage of the DREAM Act.