Columbia International Affairs Online: Policy Briefs

CIAO DATE: 12/2011

Migration as a Tool for Disaster Recovery: U.S. Policy Options in the Case of Haiti

Michael Clemens, Tejaswi Velayudhan

October 2011

Center for Global Development


The United States should take modest steps to create a legal channel for limited numbers of people fleeing natural disasters overseas to enter the United States. This would address two related problems: the lack of any systematic U.S. policy to help the growing numbers of people displaced across borders by natural disasters and the inability of U.S. humanitarian relief efforts to reduce systemic poverty or sustainably improve victims’ livelihoods. The aftermath of the 2010 Haiti earthquake presents a compelling case study of the administrative and legislative ways the U.S. government could address both problems. Migration is already a proven and powerful force for reducing Haitians’ poverty. A few modest changes in the U.S. approach could greatly aid Haiti’s recovery: * Create a Haitian Family Reunification Parole Program. * Modify the Diversity Visa Lottery Program. * Allow Haitians to be eligible for low-skill temporary work visas. * Modify the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program.