While the US government is valiantly leading the effort to bring disaster relief to the people of Haiti, back in the U.S. the Department of Homeland Security is quietly preparing for the possibility of an influx of unwelcome Haitian refugees by creating space at South Florida’s main detention center. The Los Angeles Times reports that between 250 and 400 immigration detainees are being moved out to clear space for any Haitians who manage to reach U.S. shores. DHS also states that Guantanamo Bay could be used to house temporarily house Haitian immigrants. http://bit.ly/5V7kQa

Not that there are any Haitians sailing toward the US at the moment, or that a grand influx of Haitian refugees is expected any time soon. No, the DHS just wants to prepare the prison cells in case the Haitians arrive.

Sometimes I wonder if the bureaucrats who run DHS have any clue about what goes on outside their government offices. Have they seen the news reports out of Haiti this past week? Do they not understand that most Haitians are simply trying to find enough food, water, and medical help to make it through the night, let alone planning to ferry themselves across a very dangerous stretch of the Caribbean Ocean to reach South Florida?

And, assuming that some Haitians did make it here, what is the point of detaining them? Why not simply give them the Temporary Protected Status granted to their fellow Haitians who were in the US when the earthquake struck or grant them Humanitarian Parole? Of course, there are those who will argue that if we don’t lock up new Haitian arrivals we’ll only encourage their brethren to follow. And there may be some truth to that. But given the horrific situation in Haiti, it’s difficult to imagine that detention will serve as a deterrent. It would make more sense to give Haitian refugees TPS or Humanitarian Parole so they can remain free, and work to build the resources they will need to return to their homeland once the situation permits.