U.S. President Barack Obama brought former presidents George W. Bush
and Bill Clinton together at the White House Saturday to discuss their
joint mission to help Haiti recover from a devastating earthquake.
Mr. Obama said by coming together, the former presidents send the
"unmistakable message" that the United States "stands united with the
people of Haiti."
Former President Bush, a Republican, said he was "pleased to answer the
call" to work alongside his Democrat predecessor President Clinton, to
"mobilize the compassion of the American people."
Mr. Clinton, also the U.N. special envoy to Haiti, pledged long-term
support for Haitians, to help them "escape their history and build a
The two former presidents have started the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund to raise money. The fund is accepting donations online (at www.clintonbushhaitifund.org), and promises that 100 percent of contributions will go directly to relief efforts.
The U.S. government has granted special immigration status to Haitians
living illegally in the United States, protecting them from deportation
for 18 months and allowing them to work.
U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said Saturday that
granting this temporary protected status to Haitians in the United
States is a form of economic assistance for Haiti.
She emphasized that the status only applies to Haitians who were in the
United States before the January 12 earthquake. She warned those who
want to leave Haiti not to attempt the dangerous sea crossing to enter
the U.S. illegally.
Napolitano spoke at the Homestead Air Base in (the southeastern U.S. state of)
Florida, during a visit there with Vice President Joe Biden. They also
met with members of the Haitian-American community living in the state.
Administration officials say the special status would cover an
estimated 100,000 to 200,000 Haitians believed to be living in the U.S.
illegally, including about 30,000 who have already been ordered