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 better future".
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 deported.