President Obama, facing the first large-scale humanitarian crisis of his presidency, moved quickly to send help to Haiti, pledging Wednesday that the Haitians and their devastated island nation would have the "unwavering support" of the United States.
Within hours of Mr. Obama being informed of the quake in Haiti on Tuesday, United States officials were plotting a response that included ships, transport planes, helicopters and thousands of Marines.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton decided Wednesday night to cancel the rest of her Pacific trip and return to Washington.
Gen. Douglas Fraser, head of the United States Southern Command, said that one of the Navy's large amphibious ships would probably be sent to Haiti, with a Marine expeditionary unit aboard, and that other American military forces were on alert, including a brigade of 3,500 troops. He said the Pentagon was "seriously looking" at sending thousands of Marines to help the disaster effort.
The Navy aircraft carrier Carl Vinson was deployed from Norfolk, Va.; military commanders said it should arrive in two days. In addition, White House officials said the military was looking into sending the Southern Command's hospital ship, the Comfort, in light of reports that most of Haiti's medical facilities were severely damaged if not destroyed. The Coast Guard also sent four cutters.
From the Miami Herald, on the halting of U.S. deportations to Haiti:
In the aftermath of Haiti's catastrophic earthquake, the Obama administration announced Wednesday it was temporarily suspending deportations of undocumented Haitians.
But there was no immediate indication that the federal government would grant Haitian nationals Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, an immigration benefit long sought by Haitian activists and South Florida lawmakers.
TPS is granted to selected immigrants who cannot safely return to their homelands
because of natural disasters, armed conflicts or other emergencies. Those eligible are allowed to remain here and obtain work permits and temporary stays for specific periods -- a status often renewed indefinitely.
``TPS is in the range of considerations we consider in a disaster, but our focus remains on saving lives,'' Matthew Chandler, deputy Homeland Security press secretary, said in an e-mail to El Nuevo Herald after the department announced it was halting deportations.
From USA Today, on how people can donate in the wake of the earthquake:
After Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma ravaged cities along the Gulf Coast in 2005, private donations by Americans to help victims totaled $6.47 billion, according to a philanthropy center.
After the 2004 tsunami struck in Asia, private donations approached $2 billion, Indiana University's Center on Philanthropy said.
Although government agencies provide assistance after natural disasters, charity experts say private donations will again be critical to helping Haiti.
"It's immediate cash for immediate needs," said Patrick Rooney, executive director of the philanthropy center. "Then there are other needs for longer-term, more sustained rebuilding of . the whole infrastructure."
Among organizations that need assistance:
. The American Red Cross has pledged an initial $1 million donation. People can contribute online (redcross.org), or make a $10 donation by sending a text message with the word "Haiti" to 90999.
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