Last week, an 8.8 earthquake rocked the skinny South American country of Chile, followed by two days of aftershocks in the 5, 6 and almost 7 range. My family is from Chile- my grandparents live there, and everything they’ve over owned has been destroyed. Â There was no light, no power, and almost no communication. Â There was no water for three days. Martial law has been imposed, with strict curfews in many cities. Â Â “The earth doesn’t stop shaking,” a friend of mine told me.
As the airwaves, radiowaves, blogosphere, Facebook, and twitter began to flood with news and sympathy, the comparisons with Haiti also began. Â Chile’s earthquake was bigger. Â 100 times bigger. But Haiti doesn’t have the kind of infrastructure that Chile does. Â The death toll is lower, “only” in the hundreds. Â But there are still over 2 million people displaced, and just as many cities and towns razed to the ground.
So what kind of attention is Chile going to get? Â Was it bad enough to merit a celebrity benefit concert? Â That’s pretty easy to get behind. Â What about a relaxed immigration policy? Â Would all the people professing their sympathy for Chileans in emoticons, hearts, and omgz be okay with a flow of Chileans into the United States, seeking refuge? Â Would they be okay with letting undocumented Chileans who are currently in the U.S. stay here, given the situation in Chile?
In the wake of the earthquake in Haiti, the Obama administration granted Temporary Protected Status to the estimated 100,000 to 200,000 undocumented Haitians in the United States, and declared a suspension of the enforcement of expulsion orders given to 30,000 Haitians. Â TPS is granted only when undocumented immigrants are “temporarily unable to safely return to their home country because of ongoing armed conflict, an environmental disaster, or other extraordinary and temporary conditions.” Six countries have been given TPS by the U.S.:Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, Burundi, Sudan, and Somalia, for disasters that occurred years ago.
This may be the most progress in immigration reform we’ve seen in a while. Â Is this what it takes to recognize millions of people? A hurricane? A genocide? A 7.0 earthquake? Will an 8.8 earthquake be enough?
To track earthquake activity around the world, go here.