Barack Obama at a press conference today told the heads of key U.S. government agencies to make Haiti "a top priority" for their departments.
But it's not just the obvious responders like the U.S. Agency for International Development and the State Department helping out in the wake of the massive Jan. 12 earthquake.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has suspended the deportation of Haitians, while the Federal Communications Commission will give special waivers to broadcasters seeking to raise money for disaster relief. And the Federal Trade Commission has issued tips to help people give wisely.
On Jan. 13, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Assistant Secretary John Morton announced that all removals to Haiti would be halted “for the time being in response to the devastation caused by yesterday’s earthquake,” according to a statement by deputy press secretary Matt Chandler. About 30,000 Haitians currently face deportation.
The real question is whether immigration authorities will offer illegal Haitian immigrants “temporary protected status,” or TPS. The program is designed to offer shelter for 6 to 18 months to foreign nationals when natural disaster or political upheaval makes it unsafe for them to return home. The program includes authorization to work in the United States.
Currently El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Somalia and Sudan have the status.
At the Federal Communications Commission, the Media Bureau announced procedures for noncommercial education stations seeking approval to raise money for Haiti. Normally, the FCC bars such stations from on-air fundraising on behalf of any entity other than the station itself.
“A number of noncommercial broadcasters have asked for permission to raise funds for relief efforts, which we are happy to give,” said FCC chairman Julius Genachowski in a statement. “These temporary waivers will help tap the American spirit of generosity in this time of great need to aid Haitian relief efforts.”
Fundraising waivers in the past were granted after Hurricanes Andrew and Katrina, the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in New York City, and the December 2004 tsunami in Southeast Asia.
Also today, the Federal Trade Commission issued tips for people making donations for disaster relief.
In a blog post, David Vladeck, the director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection, wrote, “In the aftermath of the earthquakes in Haiti, many people are making financial contributions to support charitable organizations helping with the recovery and reconstruction. In the past, the FTC has investigated and prosecuted scammers who pretended to represent charities during a crisis.”
The agency’s tips include:
Give directly to the charity, not the solicitors for the charity.
Donate to recognized charities that you have given to before. Watch out for those that have sprung up overnight.
Do not give out personal or financial information – including your Social Security number or credit card and bank account numbers – to anyone who solicits a contribution from you.
Check out any charities before you donate. Contact the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance at http://www.give.org .