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Helping Haiti through migration and remittances

Dilip Ratha's picture

A laudable measure that will benefit Haitians, more than any other aid and assistance, is the decision by the United States to grant them temporary protected status (TPS) for 18 months. This will allow about 200,000 Haitians currently residing in the US without proper documents to live and work here legally, without a fear of deportation. It would also allow them to send money home quickly and efficiently through formal remittance channels.

Haiti receives between $1.5-1.8 billion in remittances each year (some estimates are even larger, over a half of its national income).  If the TPS resulted in a 20 percent increase in the average remittance per migrant, we would expect an additional $360 million remittance flows to Haiti in 2010! What is more, if the TPS were to be extended once beyond the currently stipulated 18 months – the extension is almost certain to happen, judging by the history of extensions of the TPS for El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Somalia and Sudan – additional fund flows to Haiti would exceed a billion dollar over three years. That would be a billion dollar of financial help coupled with goodwill and advice, tailored to the needs of the recipient. Financial help in the form of remittances from family members abroad is always the first to arrive in times of distress. Remittances to Haiti this year will surge, as they have done whenever and wherever there has been a crisis or natural disaster (see paper).

In the immediate term, there is a need to ensure that remittance flows to Haiti are not disrupted. In the medium-term, there is a need to leverage these flows for local and national development (without directly interfering with these flows). The challenge would be to tame a temptation on the part of the government and the donor community to treat remittances as a substitute for aid or public spending on rebuilding efforts, especially in communities where migrants’ relatives reside.

According to official statistics about a million Haitians are living overseas, about a half of them in the US. Newspapers often report that a million Haitians live in the neighboring Dominican Republic. There is now a fear of mass migration from Haiti to the US and to Dominican Republic, and both countries are now tightening borders to prevent an influx of Haitians. This is not surprising, but this is paradoxical, like the proverbial giving-with-one-hand-and-taking-it-away-with-the-other. I should think the short-term surge in migration would subside rather quickly when Haiti begins to recover and rebuild itself.

Comments

Submitted by Gabriel on
Excellent post. One question: is there a source for the 200,000 number? Newspaper reports quoting the DHS said 100,000. I subtracted the number of Haitians with permanent residency from the estimate of non-citizen Haitians counted in the American Community Survey and got 46,000, which includes undocumented and those with non-resident visas. The ACS reflects some undercount of undocumented Haitians, but I doubt that more than 3 out of 4 are missed by the survey, which is what the 200,000 figure suggests. http://whirledcitizen.wordpress.com/2010/01/17/some-numbers-on-haitians-in-the-u-s-and-remittances/

Submitted by Dilip on
Thanks. The source is DHS which estimates that 100,000 to 200,000 individuals will be eligible for the TPS, see link. I have taken the upper end of this range which seems realistic considering that there are nearly half a million Haitians in the US. Some even estimate that there are nearly a million Haitians in the US. link: http://www.uscis.gov/portal/site/uscis/menuitem.eb1d4c2a3e5b9ac89243c6a7543f6d1a/?vgnextoid=e54e60f64f336210VgnVCM100000082ca60aRCRD&vgnextchannel=e54e60f64f336210VgnVCM100000082ca60aRCRD

Your blogs are always so very well informed in the area of global Remittances that they are very often thought-provoking - and none more so than how money transfers could help the people of Haiti today, all in addition to the essential Aid services of course. While the world does not yet know how to react fully to the sheer scale of the suffering, devastation and fear that pervades Haiti right now- a country that is only one third the size of the island of Ireland but with 50% greater population, and already a disenfranchised people- the world can hear the cry of the people of Haiti and respond to them on a far wider frontier, to enable them to climb out of their misery and to now open up a far brighter future for their children. They are a strong, proud and independent-minded people who have suffered too much already, even before this earthquake. They must not have entered the world spotlight in vain now but instead we can ensure that this disaster will lead with a degree of certainty to a much better life for all of their people. This can be achieved through ongoing Social Purchasing. Shoppers of the World will unite today under strong leadership such as you have long given over this past decade on how Remittances can end poverty, being the root of so much evil in this world of ours. People of the world have now a real opportunity to act and vote their wallet daily to change the world of the people of Haiti. People of the world are now only awakening to their plight through this dreadful tragedy, but an ongoing awareness can be translated through Social Purchasing into us all building a true Global Neighbourhood Community - helping each other to help ourselves. Richard O'Farrell

Submitted by Sanket on
Some clarifications on migration and remittances in Haiti: - Officially recorded remittance flows to Haiti were $1.3 million in 2008, according to World Bank data. The actual amounts including flows through formal and informal channels are expected to be significantly higher. The Inter-American Development Bank estimates that remittance flows to Haiti were $1.9 billion in 2008. The IDB estimates are based on small-scale surveys, and therefore include flows through both recorded and unrecorded channels, but are subject to the bias from the small size of the surveys. - The number of recorded Haitian emigrants was 834,000 in 2005, with more than half living in the US. There were 535,000 recorded Haitian immigrants in the US in 2008, according the US Census Bureau's American Community Survey. 230,000 of these were Legal Permanent Residents (LPRs). - The number of recorded Haitian migrants in the Dominican Republic is about 100,000, but Dominican officials estimate about 1 million Haitian immigrants live in the Dominican Republic (according to the New York Times). The other destinations for Haitian migrants are Canada, Guadeloupe, France, French Guiana, Bahamas, Cuba and Martinique.

Elliott Abrams' op ed in the Washington Post today has strikingly similar views - see link "http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/01/21/AR2010012103508.html" -Dilip

Submitted by Sanket on
The Indypendent of the NYC Independent Media Center cites the blog post in an article http://www.indypendent.org/2010/01/29/funding-fractures "On Jan 15. the Obama administration relented and authorized the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to allow an estimated 130,000 Haitian immigrants living in the United States to apply for TPS... Dilip Ratha, the World Bank’s lead economist on migration and remittances, writes that if “TPS resulted in a 20 percent increase in the average remittance per migrant, we would expect an additional $360 million remittance flows to Haiti in 2010.”" Michael Clemens makes a similar calculation in a article published on January 27 in FP "Suppose the United States lets in 100,000 Haitian immigrants...this would increase the size of the worldwide Haitian diaspora by 10 percent...this would mean roughly $150 million to 180 million every year in additional remittances for Haiti" (http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2010/01/27/let_them_leave) Although the estimates of additional remittances differs slightly from Dilip's original estimate, Clemen's article supports the view that granting TPS would be a smart way to help Haiti during the current crisis. Sanket

though the estimates of additional remittances differs slightly from Dilip's original estimate, Clemen's article supports the view that granting TPS would be a smart way to help Haiti during the current crisis

In the aftermath of the most devastating earthquake in Haiti, we lawyers are all trying to find ways to help. Assisting Haitians legalize their status in the United States is a good start, and there are pro bono clinics lined up already in New York. Haitians who can work legally can send more remittances to their loved ones in Haiti, which can be the most effective form of aid after this horrific tragedy.

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