In the next several weeks the Department of Homeland Security will have to decide whether to extend, yet again, Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to Haitians living the U.S. Haitians were first granted TPS in 2010, following a devastating earthquake that hit the country. Seven and half years later that status is still in place and advocates and “humanitarian” organizations are lobbying hard to grant Haitians another 18 months’ stay in this country.
In a letter to DHS Secretary John Kelly, 35 self-described humanitarian groups make their case for why Haitian nationals should not be required to return home. They note that since the January 2010 earthquake, Haiti’s woes have been compounded by Hurricane Matthew, a Category 4 storm that hit the country last October. But that’s not all. According to the letter, some 1.5 million Haitians “face high levels of food insecurity” and “an additional 1.65 million are at risk of cholera infection.” Then there’s the poverty and violence that plague the country. Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Forty percent of households are headed by women and domestic violence affects a quarter of the female population.
The issue of whether to grant Haitians an extension of TPS raises questions for the United States and other Western nations that go far beyond the circumstances of this one benighted country. It raises the serious question of how the developed world is going to deal with an ever-growing number of failed societies. Haiti was a mess the day before it was struck by the earthquake and it will still be a mess at the end of the next TPS extension.
Haiti is a failed society at every conceivable level. There is little the country can do to prevent natural disasters – it obviously sits on a fault line and in the path of hurricanes that sweep through the Caribbean on a regular basis. But its ability to recover from the events is hampered by centuries of political and economic corruption, and ecological irresponsibility.
After the earthquake, foreign governments and international NGOs poured billions of relief dollars into the country. Much of that money was either squandered or stolen. Kleptocratic and despotic regimes have left most of the population in dire poverty. In an effort to fend for themselves, desperate Haitians have stripped the country of its forests, eroding the country’s soil resulting in the “high levels of food insecurity” described in the letter to Kelly, and turning routine hurricanes into catastrophes.
The pathologies would be bad enough if it they were just limited to Haiti. But they’re not. Much of the migration crisis affecting Europe is the result of similar circumstances playing out across parts of Africa and Asia. In our own hemisphere, there are failed and failing states that are just one bad day away from becoming the next Haiti.
Western nations can’t simply turn their backs on the cast-offs from these failed societies. Even if it were ethically possible to do so, the global instability that would be caused would inevitably draw us into interminable and intractable conflicts. Nor can we simply absorb the sizeable chunk of humanity that lives in these failed and failing societies, or assimilate the failed cultures that are responsible for making these countries unlivable.
We should reject calls for further extension of TPS for Haitians because the immediate aftermath of the triggering event has long since passed and the standard for requiring people to return home cannot be full recovery. Even though TPS is, in theory, applicable only to people who were in the United States at the time of the triggering event, a common thread that runs through all countries receiving this designation is that they are places people desperately want to leave. Instead of dealing with failed societies on an ad hoc basis – i.e. when people start washing up on our shores – the United States and other Western nations must begin developing plans and strategies for dealing/coping with what is likely to be an ever-growing phenomenon.
Plans and strategies should not imply that we have the ability to fix the problems that are driving the migration crises around the world. Rather, the goal must be to find the best ways (best, as in least bad) to address the problems at their core and protect people without encouraging mass and unsustainable transfers of population. The phenomenon of mass human migration is accelerating rapidly and the traditional responses simply won’t do.