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2010-01-14

Rep. Maxine Waters on US Response to Haiti Crisis

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We speak with Congress member Maxine Waters (D-CA) about the US and international aid response to Tuesday’s earthquake in Haiti. As of Thursday morning, little aid has arrived, and a desperate search for survivors continues. [includes rush transcript]

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN:

Haiti is devastated. We don’t know the death toll. It could be up to 100,000 people.

I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan Gonzalez, as we turn now to the voices of some Haitians living here in New York. More than 100,000 Haitians reside in East Flatbush in Brooklyn. Many have been unable to contact family members in Haiti.

    JOEL DORLETTE:

    We’ve been suffering for so many — in the past, and we’ve got — and right now the situation is getting worse. So, we’re hoping getting some help from other countries and to see what we do, because it’s really crazy. I have my family there, and we have no way of — no communications, nothing, nothing. We can get in contact with nobody.

    RAYMONDE SOULLY: Oh, yes, I’m worried. I’m worried because — not only for my family, for the country. It is my country. I like my country, too. I don’t know. You can do nothing.

    RICOT DUPUY: Understand that this has hit us, our home directly. There is no single Haitian here in the United States that is not directly, immediately impacted by this. All of us, every single one of us, has some member of family that either has been killed or severely hurt in this. When this thing is all over, it’s going to be a catastrophe of proportions that cannot be described.

    I just heard that somebody who owns a four-story building with fourteen apartments, with a whole bunch of students in there, basically kids, totally destroyed with all the kids in there. Totally flattened. And she doesn’t know what to do. She doesn’t know who to call. People are crying for help. She can hear the voices. Some of them are dead, half-dead. I mean, you hear these stories one after the other.

AMY GOODMAN:

That’s Ricot Dupuy. He’s a disc jockey at Radio Soleil of Haiti in Brooklyn.

This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. Haitians and the diaspora. Juan?

JUAN GONZALEZ:

Well, we’re joined on the phone by US Representative Maxine Waters of California, a longtime advocate of a just US policy toward Haiti.

Welcome to Democracy Now!

REP. MAXINE WATERS:

Thank you very much. Delighted to be with you this morning.

JUAN GONZALEZ:

Could you tell us what you’re hoping to try to get the government to do right now in this time of such enormous need for Haiti?

REP. MAXINE WATERS:

Well, let me just say that both the President and Secretary of State Clinton and a special envoy, former President Clinton, have all expressed complete support for Haiti. The President has said we’ll do everything that we possibly can. The UN is on the ground now. We have teams on the ground, equipment being moved in, food, water. And I’m very pleased about the response of our government.

I just want things to move as fast as they possibly can. I will pay close, close attention to make sure that we’re living up to the commitments that have been made. And I’m just hopeful that we are also instrumental in helping to coordinate the activities of the international community and other countries. I understand the President has been talking with other countries and playing somewhat of a coordinating role. And I understand that France and Canada and some of the CARICOM countries are all, you know, on their way or already there. I just hope that they get on the ground and get people out from under that rubble and that our ships move in with more hospital help to help the people of Haiti. So I think that, you know, people’s hearts are in the right places and that people are wanting to do everything they can. It’s just a matter of how fast can it get done.

JUAN GONZALEZ:

Well, Representative Waters, Reverend Al Sharpton announced yesterday that he is going to be flying down with some other African American leaders on Martin Luther King Day to Haiti to try to express some direct solidarity from the communities here, in addition to the governmental support. Do you have any intentions yourself of going down, or is this Reverend Sharpton and some other leaders who are doing this?

REP. MAXINE WATERS:

No, I don’t know about that. No, I do not have any plans to go down. I know that we will probably have a delegation, maybe headed by our senior member, John Conyers, that I’ve been hearing about, that may be going down.

One thing about going to Haiti is we tie up all of the State Department people who should be working on the ground with the Haitians. You know, what happens when a CODEL of elected officials go down, they have to provide us with transportation. They have to make sure that we’re fed. I don’t want to take up the time of the people who should be helping the Haitians rather than spending time with us. I will get there. But I think it’s more important now for all of the State Department people to be helping the Haitians rather than squiring us around and looking after us and making sure we are transported. I think, in due time, I’ll get there.

AMY GOODMAN:

Congress member Waters, I wanted to get your response to the president of Haiti. René Préval was interviewed yesterday on CNN. This is a clip.

    PRESIDENT RENÉ PRÉVAL: My palace collapsed.

    DR. SANJAY GUPTA: So you don’t have a home?

    PRESIDENT RENÉ PRÉVAL: So, I came here to work. But they told me that I cannot work here because it’s not safe. So I’m going home.

    DR. SANJAY GUPTA: You’re going to go back to your home. Are you able to live in the palace, or is it completely destroyed?

    PRESIDENT RENÉ PRÉVAL: I cannot live in the palace, I cannot live in my own house, because the two collapsed.

    DR. SANJAY GUPTA: Where are you going to go tonight?

    PRESIDENT RENÉ PRÉVAL: I don’t know.

    DR. SANJAY GUPTA: It’s striking. The president of this country doesn’t know where he’s going to sleep tonight.

    PRESIDENT RENÉ PRÉVAL: No. I have plenty of time to look for a bed, but now I am working how to rescue the people. But sleeping is not a problem.

    DR. SANJAY GUPTA: What have you seen with your own eyes? How bad a situation is it?

    PRESIDENT RENÉ PRÉVAL: It’s incredible. You have to see it to believe it.

    DR. SANJAY GUPTA: What is the worst thing that you saw so far?

    PRESIDENT RENÉ PRÉVAL: People in the street for two days now, and we don’t have the capacity to bring them to the hospital.

AMY GOODMAN:

That was Haitian President René Préval being interviewed on CNN. His home has been destroyed. The palace, the Presidential Palace, has collapsed.

On the phone with us from California, from Los Angeles, is Congress member Maxine Waters. And in the studio with us is Bill Quigley. First, your comment on President Préval’s comments, Maxine Waters?

REP. MAXINE WATERS:

Well, I happened to — happened to see that interview on CNN, and my heart went out to President Préval, who was on the street. And his concerns about the Haitian people really did move me deeply. The palace, the Presidential Palace, is basically destroyed. He said his home is destroyed. But his concern is with the people, and I was very moved by that. And I’m concerned about him, because, you know, he’s been in not the best of health. So, you know, Haitians are suffering, and the President is suffering right along with them.

AMY GOODMAN:

Congress member Waters, Bill Quigley is with us, one of the heads of the Center for Constitutional Rights here in New York, but has spent a great deal of time in Haiti. The Haitian diaspora in this country is sometimes called the tenth department — nine departments in Haiti and one right here. What about the people here, Bill Quigley?

BILL QUIGLEY: Well, the main source of income for the entire country of Haiti are the funds that are remitted from people in the United States sent back to their family there. And as the congresswoman well knows, you know, the United States is trying to deport about 30,000 Haitians, keeping their ability to work and to send money back in real flux. While the United States has put in a protection for people from El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Somalia and Sudan, we’ve refused to do that for about 30,000 Haitians that are facing deportation here.

And we hope that this will be a chance for the President to just, with the stroke of a pen, can say that we’ll put off the deportation of these folks and let them do their jobs so that the community in the United States can continue to support the people. And I know the congresswoman is taking leadership on that.

Do you think there’s a chance that maybe some — there would be a breakthrough in that?

REP. MAXINE WATERS:

Well, I certainly hope so. Grace —- I mean Napolitano, our secretary over at -—

AMY GOODMAN:

Homeland Security.

REP. MAXINE WATERS:

—- the -—

AMY GOODMAN:

Homeland Security.

REP. MAXINE WATERS:

Homeland Security, yes — did announce a temporary policy. And we are going to make this an issue. Already, my staff in Washington met with the staffs of other members of the Congressional Black Caucus. And this is one of the issues that is being taken up among us to try and pressure the administration to do this. So, right now they have announced a temporary policy. And, of course, we want to get a better and more permanent policy in the way that we treat Haitians.

We have never been satisfied with this policy. Every administration has been wrong in the way that they have managed the Haitians and been discriminatory. And we, too, would like to see a change, and we will do everything that we possibly can at this unfortunate moment to see if we can’t change that policy.

AMY GOODMAN:

Yes, the Obama administration has temporarily suspended any deportation.

REP. MAXINE WATERS: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN:

But the question of granting TPS, temporary protected status, that still they have not resolved.

REP. MAXINE WATERS: That’s right.

AMY GOODMAN:

And we will continue to follow that. Congress member Waters, thanks for joining us.

REP. MAXINE WATERS:

You’re welcome.

AMY GOODMAN:

And we also want to thank you, Bill Quigley, Center for Constitutional Rights, as well as Brian Concannon, who was with us by via Skype.

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