The Big Question: Is it time to reconsider Haitian immigration policies?

Some of the nation's top political commentators, legislators and intellectuals  offer insight into the biggest question burning up the blogosphere today.


Today's question:

Will the Obama administration permanently revise the "wet foot, dry foot" immigration policy to include Haitian refugees in light of the recent earthquake? Should it?


Hal Lewis, professor of Physics at UC Santa Barbara, said:

Will it?  Sure;  Democratic voters, legal or not, present or future, are always welcome. Should it? Lots of people, many in worse shape than the Haitians, would like to live here. Why discriminate?


John F. McManus, president of The John Birch Society, said:

If consideration is given to the desire of the Obama administration to relax even further U.S. immigration policies, it would seem likely that there will be moves to bring desperate Haitians to the U.S. to get them supporting, even voting, for the Obama team's initiatives and allies.  Rahm Emanuel stated that a crisis is a terrible thing to waste and this is a crisis that he and the rest of the Obama administration will likely seek to exploit. Immigration to the U.S. should be accomplished only through the legal process that characterized our nation's policies for more than a century but has been ignored in recent decades.
 

Justin Raimondo, editorial director of Antiwar.com, said:

There's no telling what the Obama administration will do, but I wouldn't be at all surprised: political correctness inevitably distorts the thinking process, and letting in a new flood of immigrants is just the sort of politically tone-deaf act that one might reasonably expect from this crowd.


Rep. Kendrick Meek, D-Florida, said:

I have been a very vocal, long-time supporter of enacting Temporary Protected Status for Haitian immigrants.


John Feehery, Pundits Blog contributor, said:

Wet foot, dry foot applies only to Cuba, and it should stay that way.  People flee from Cuba because it is a communist dictatorship.  Coming to America illegally to flee poverty is a different issue entirely.  We can afford to help Cubans flee communism.  We can't afford to allow the world to come to America illegally because they want a shot at the American dream.

It is important to do all we can to help the people of Haiti right now.  What we shouldn't do is permanently change our immigration laws in response to a crisis.  We should make laws by calmly assessing what works and what doesn't, and then come up with proposals that make sense, especially for our nation's citizens, who pay the taxes to make this government work.  Illegal immigration from Haiti or from anywhere strains our national resources and leads to chaos and a general sense of illegality.  We shouldn't take any steps now that will make the situation worse in the future.


Herb London, president of the Hudson Institute, said:

The danger of maintaining a "wet foot" policy - those who make it to our shores one way or another - is that it undermines the legitimacy of legal immigration. Why should those seeking admission wait for months or years, when a raft to Florida offers instant acceptance?
 
While I believe the charitable instincts of this matter have been and continue to be evident, there are limits to what charity can provide. Far better, in my opinion, to assist with the humanitarian aid to Haiti rather than liberalize immigration laws so that Haitians can gain immediate access to our shores. Good intentions do not always make for good policy. In this case, helping Haiti at home is far better than bringing Haitians here.
 


David Schanzer,
Director of the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security, said:

Right now, all of our efforts should be focused on relieving the catastrophic humanitarian crisis in Haiti.  Emergencies are no time to reconsider longstanding policy issues, such as our immigration policy regarding Haiti.  Obviously, Haitians in immigration detention in the United States should not be returned to a disaster zone for the time being.  But it would be a huge mistake to encourage people to head for the seas to try to reach the United States.  This will only complicate the massive humanitarian mission that is only just getting started.


Columnist Jonathan Capehart calls for Haitians to get special immigration status.