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Congress asks for immigration, tax changes to help Haitians

Updated 2:10 p.m.
By Ben Pershing and N.C. Aizenman
Members of Congress are gearing up their response to the earthquake in Haiti, drafting legislation to encourage charitable giving and calling on the administration to relax immigration restrictions.

The House is expected to consider legislation Tuesday or Wednesday that would allow people who make charitable donations for Haiti relief to include them in their itemized deductions on their 2009 tax returns. The measure will be introduced jointly by Ways and Means Chairman Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) and ranking member Dave Camp (R-Mich.).

"This measure provides an immediate benefit for those who have already given and incentive for those who are considering a charitable contribution," Rangel said. Camp added that Americans' donations "can literally mean the difference between life and death to many of those still struggling through this tragedy and devastation."

Congress took the same step in January 2005 to encourage donations after the tsunami that decimated parts of Southeast Asia.

Separately, New York Sens. Chuck Schumer (D) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D) announced Thursday that they were proposing legislation that waive the limits on tax deductions for donations to Haiti relief. Normally, individual taxpayers can only deduct up to 50 percent of their income in a given year. Congress took similar action to abolish that limit temporarily after Hurricane Katrina.

On the immigration front, Senate Foreign Relations Chairman John Kerry (D-Mass.) and 13 fellow committee Democrats, plus Independent Sen. Bernard Sanders (Vt.), wrote to President Obama asking that Haitian immigrants be granted Temporary Protected Status for 18 months. That classification is given to immigrants who can't safely return to their home countries, whether because of a natural disaster, armed conflict or other causes. In this case it would allow Haitian immigrants in the U.S. to send funds back home legally.

"The United States granted TPS to Honduras and Nicaragua in 1999, following Hurricane Mitch, and to El Salvador in 2001, following several earthquakes," the senators noted. "Haiti clearly meets the criteria for TPS designation and extending it would be one small way to help address this catastrophe, as well as alleviate additional burdens on American assistance workers."

A committee aide said the panel had not yet gotten a response to its request from the Obama administration.

Sen. Richard Lugar (Ind.), the ranking Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, echoed the call for TPS status in his own statement.

"It is in the foreign policy interest of the United States and a humanitarian imperative of the highest order to have all people of Haitian descent in a position to contribute towards the recovery of this island nation," Lugar said.

A trio of House Republicans from Florida - Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Mario Diaz-Balart and Lincoln Diaz-Balart - made the same request of the administration.

Their endorsement of emergency asylum broadens a lobbying effort that has largely driven by immigrant advocates and lawmakers with long-standing ties to the Haitian American community.

On Friday, Miami Archbishop John C. Favalora and the local Washington-area advocacy group CASA of Maryland also called for the status change, joining leaders of the National Council of La Raza, America's Voice, the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center and three House Republicans from Florida.

The heads of two national groups that advocate for stricter immigration controls, the Federation for American Immigration Reform and the Center for Immigration Studies, said Thursday that they too would support extending temporary protected status to Haitians in this case.

Beyond those issues it remains to be seen whether Congress will move in the coming weeks to authorize additional foreign aid funds for Haiti. Two-dozen senators wrote to the chamber's leaders and the Appropriations committee Wednesday to ask that they "include robust emergency funds to assist Haiti in the next legislative vehicle before the Senate."

House Foreign Affairs Chairman Howard Berman (D-Calif.) said the crisis "highlights the importance of having sufficiently fast and flexible resources at the ready to respond in a meaningful and effective way. I am in touch with the Administration to determine whether legislation is needed to provide additional humanitarian aid or emergency authorities that would improve our ability to save lives and relieve suffering."

By Ben Pershing and N.C. Aizenman  |  January 15, 2010; 12:05 PM ET
Categories:  44 The Obama Presidency  
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Comments

Once the temporary is in it will always be in and by the way they will vote in Florida. OMG! Do you think the Florida delegation even ever thought of that???

Posted by: staterighter | January 15, 2010 5:26 PM | Report abuse

Sorry for the Haitians suffering in that country and I hope the world provides the needed assistance. But, please, do not let either illegal Haitian aliens in this our country remain here indefinitely nor relax immigration restrictions from Haiti to America. We don’t need any more of those people here. They do not contribute to the quality of life here. I’ve experienced their behavior and thirds-world ways in South Florida and, believe me, you do not want such things to happen to your community. They’ll turn it into another Port-au-Prince. That’s simply and sadly the way it is.

Posted by: sero1 | January 15, 2010 5:21 PM | Report abuse

The "temporary" in TPS is government speak for "permanent"

Posted by: Nemo24601 | January 15, 2010 5:12 PM | Report abuse

If one is opposed to amnesty for illegal aliens (and I am), it is counterproductive to make flamingly ignorant comments.

TPS is by definition a temporary status. It is not "amnesty" as that term is used in current immigration policy discussions.

One can be opposed to blanket amnesties for illegal aliens and still support a temporary suspension of deportations into an active war or natural disaster zone.

If you support continued deportations into a war or natural disaster zone, fine. But call it that. Don't huff and puff about "amnesty".

Posted by: Itzajob | January 15, 2010 4:34 PM | Report abuse

No amnesty of any kind for any illegal alien.

TPS is a form of amnesty, and deportations should NOT stop. Please remember any illegal aliens are not supposed to be in America in the first place.

Posted by: jnrentz@aol.com | January 15, 2010 4:17 PM | Report abuse

Lugar sucks.
Relaxing immigration is a direct attack on the will of the people to create a missing voter base for these toxic mess makers.

Posted by: dottydo | January 15, 2010 4:14 PM | Report abuse

Imported voters. Find them and register them Indpendent so they don't vote in what they just escaped.
Obama endorsing Rene Garcia PREVAL on TV shows his evil side.

Posted by: dottydo | January 15, 2010 4:11 PM | Report abuse

Jeffreed, that is not accurate.

During the Balkan wars of the 90s, TPS was granted to Bosnians, and later terminated. It was extended a couple times, lasting somewhat longer than I thought was absolutely necessary (and I was pretty familiar with the situation there), but it did eventually come to a not-terribly-untimely end.

Doubtless there are other examples, but that is the only one I am familiar with.

I'm not a big fan of blanket legalizations of illegal immigrants generally, but it is only reasonable to suspend deportations into a crisis situation.

Posted by: Itzajob | January 15, 2010 3:51 PM | Report abuse

There is a lot of land not affected by the earthquake in Haiti - so send the illegals who are in the US back now so they can help rebuild THEIR COUNTRY.

There is also a lot of room in the Dominican for them to reside in.

US taxpayers do not need more financial burdens, as we have enough with legal US
citizens!

Posted by: Sirius2 | January 15, 2010 3:51 PM | Report abuse

Politicians using this tragedy to justify illegal immigrants is a travisty.

Posted by: Pilot1 | January 15, 2010 3:50 PM | Report abuse

I don't know how granting TPS will help quake victims. US can be lenient about deporting illegals back to Haiti. Some kind of pass can be issued without any questions asked, so that people can go and check on their families and enter back into US. Most of those who are illegaly here are probabaly already working. Making them legal will mean more burden on social services. More money given out as earned income credit. It will not be fair to other illegals.

Posted by: Vikram2 | January 15, 2010 3:45 PM | Report abuse

Lugar is an old-school Republican. While I disagree with him on most everything, he has some basic human decency when it comes to Haiti. He and the Republicans who joined him are doing the right thing by offering temporary asylum to Haitians, whatever their legal status.

The mean-spirited and hateful comments here (FLvet, tjhall1, Diogenes, etc.) are typical of the newer, Limbaugh-bred type of Republican. At least comment boards like these let everyone see what cruel and evil people they are. These are the sort of folks who wouldn't save a drowning child if it was in the country illegally. You gotta ask yourself, is that the sort of person I want to be? The vast majority of Americans say no.

Posted by: bigbrother1 | January 15, 2010 3:42 PM | Report abuse

Sen. Richard Lugar (Ind.), the ranking Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, echoed the call for TPS status in his own statement... / A trio of House Republicans from Florida - Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Mario Diaz-Balart and Lincoln Diaz-Balart - made the same request of the administration.

Next thing you know, Limbaugh, Robertson et al. will be denouncing Ros-Lehtinen and the Diaz-Balarts too. Is there no end to the hate?

Posted by: Nosy_Parker | January 15, 2010 3:35 PM | Report abuse

Define 'temporary', as in "towards the recovery of this island nation"!! Haiti was already the poorest, most squalid nation to begin with. All I'm suggesting is to set a firm timetable, but only in THIS case. I agree with the comment "how is this our problem?" (i.e., to board illegals) if/until their situation ever improves at home. There are dozens of nations that this could apply to. When does it stop?!

Posted by: redrocket | January 15, 2010 3:32 PM | Report abuse

In the past this country has give TPS status to immigrants from various nations. It has never and I repeat never took the status of TPS off the immigrants from any nation. In addition, if you look around the world, there are places where people on a day in and day out bases who are in worse shape than those residing in Haiti, but we have not extended TPS status to them. It would be nice if there was some honesty in the whole area of TPS, but knowing the American political system I doubt it will ever happen.

Posted by: jeffreed | January 15, 2010 3:23 PM | Report abuse

Dick Lugar gets it.

Neocons don't.

It's called a heart.

Posted by: bs2004 | January 15, 2010 2:03 PM | Report abuse

This article has not given the full position of the Federation for American Immigration Reform. Here is the title of the article I see on the FAIR website:

FAIR Urges Termination of TPS for Other Nations to Accommodate Influx of Haitians

Posted by: hipshot | January 15, 2010 2:00 PM | Report abuse

Nothing but the U.S. Constitution is temporary to the democrats... especially Obama. Lugar needs to go away.

No legal status to any ILLEGAL ALIEN... EVER.

Posted by: markandbeth92 | January 15, 2010 1:55 PM | Report abuse

In 1986 we were promised that illegal immigration would be controlled and there would be no more amnesties. This was in exchange for the amnesty.

We granted TPS to Central Americans 13 years ago and they are still here.

Bill Clinton promised that the 20,000 Cubans who fled to Guantanamo in 1996 would not come here. They did.

Where do you think this is going?

Posted by: hipshot | January 15, 2010 1:53 PM | Report abuse

Is Lugar out of his mind?? Legalizing parasites is somehow 'good'??

Posted by: tjhall1 | January 15, 2010 1:43 PM | Report abuse

The temporary status should be for only about six months. When it stretches beyond that these people will simply game the system like so many others so that it becomes permanent.

Posted by: hipshot | January 15, 2010 1:40 PM | Report abuse

This IS political suicide for Lugar and it WILL BE political suicide for Obama should he take this insane advice. Maybe we should grant legal status to all illegal immigrants while we're at it? Pure insanity... the precedent will only lead to more Haitian refugees showing up in Florida.

Posted by: SUMB44 | January 15, 2010 1:40 PM | Report abuse

Lugar is so wrong on this recommendation. Illegal aliens should not be granted anything, period. How this would help Haiti is beyond me and if the door is open a crack, it will become a flood. By all means, we need to help Haiti in its hour of need, but let's forget about granting any illegals temporary legal status. As for the Catholic church pushing for this, we can well see their purpose.

Posted by: Diogenes | January 15, 2010 1:23 PM | Report abuse

Don't expect N.C. Aizenman to even hint at this, but this plan will do more harm then good. The "temporary" in TPS will become "permanent", increasing their dependence on us and making reforms more difficult:

http://24ahead.com/n/9763

Posted by: LonewackoDotCom | January 15, 2010 1:00 PM | Report abuse

Why so then can get free national healthcare here soon? you do this and we'll have all 10 million form the island coming over. Just hold them until things stabilize over there and yes it could be awhile.

Posted by: FLvet | January 15, 2010 12:57 PM | Report abuse

Why is this our problem? Should we take in the hundreds of thousands of Iranians affected by earthquakes in Iran? Ditto for China?

Posted by: silencedogoodreturns | January 15, 2010 12:48 PM | Report abuse

MEMO to Aizenman:

How about asking Lugar where he stands on repeal of (or exemption from) the federal minimum wage?

Could there be an ulterior motive here? Like cheap (I know what you're thinking) labor?

***

p>ATTN. STATE DEPARTMENT:

WAS U.S. GOV'T "HAARP" PROJECT IN ALASKA IN OPERATION IN THE HOURS AND MINUTES LEADING UP TO THE EARTHQUAKE?

IF SO, WHAT WERE THE TARGETS OF ITS ELECTROMAGNETIC EXTREME LOW FREQUENCY WAVES?

This question must be asked of the Pentagon and other relevant agencies.

Also: Why no follow-up to "60 Minutes" report about dept.-wide "review" of Mexico border "electronic fence"? Could this be the reason?

http://nowpublic.com/world/u-s-govt-uses-cbs-news-cover-microwave-cell-tower-torture OR http:NowPublic.com/scrivener

Posted by: scrivener50 | January 15, 2010 12:39 PM | Report abuse

This is the best thing I've heard about Lugar in years.

It's obvious that nobody should be sent back into that devastation.

Posted by: F_L_Palmer | January 15, 2010 12:37 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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