The recent hurricane in Haiti has yet again brought the island into the national news cycle. However, the attention lasted less than a week and now the needs of the people of Haiti have again receded into the background. It seems like only yesterday the 2010 earthquake descended upon the island and destroyed the lives and livelihoods of so many innocent people. Unfortunately, the recent hurricane may have actually done more long-term damage to the island in that it wiped out much of the food supply and sources for food in particular regions of the island. Now more than ever, Haiti and her people need more than just our prayers.
According to the 2010 U.S. census, there are more than 125,000 Haitians in New York City alone. Many still have direct ties to loved ones on the island and many are coordinating efforts to get relief back home. The Obama administration has temporarily halted deportations of Haitians in the U.S. However, this reprieve will not last long. The Obama administration will most likely resume its aggressive deportation strategies in the upcoming weeks, thereby sending thousands of undocumented Haitians living in the U.S. back to an island that has yet to recover from the hurricane and the devastating aftermath. It should come as no surprise that electricity and telecommunications are still not fully restored in the worst hit areas. In addition, standing water has created many potential public health crises. The structural loss of buildings and the tree and crop loss make it such that urgent aid is needed. However, as many witnessed after the earthquake, the lack of coordination and widespread corruption at all levels (NGO, international community, national and local) prevented much of the aid from ever reaching the people who needed it the most.
So what can we do? Well, we can first call or write our elected officials and President Obama to urge them to stop deporting undocumented Haitians back to an island that does not yet have the infrastructure or food supply to aid their return. We can coordinate with churches and local groups that have connections in Haiti and can get the food and clothing directly to the people who need it most. New York City Council Member Matthieu Eugene, the first Haitian-born council member, is coordinating efforts and relief. He and his staff would also know of various types of organizations that are aiding the island at this time. And last, if Hillary Clinton is elected Nov. 8, we can put immediate pressure on her administration to do what is needed for Haiti. President Bill Clinton has a negative track record pertaining to his interventions in Haiti in the 1990s. We can urge the new president not to repeat his mistakes.
Haiti definitely still needs our prayers, but the island can also use our help.
Christina Greer, Ph.D., is an associate professor at Fordham University and the author of “Black Ethnics: Race, Immigration, and the Pursuit of the American Dream.” You can find her on Twitter @Dr_CMGreer.