Ike a chance to show our compassion

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Myriam Marquez
Thursday, September 11, 2008

The heavenly signs pierce the soul, harsh and devastating.

You can see them in the eyes of a wounded Haitian child caked in mud, gasping for life after Ike, the Category 3 hurricane that killed more than 300 and left a million homeless. Feel them in the tremble of a sobbing father holding his dead little girl. Hear them in prayers of Miamiís Little Haiti community to Notre Dame du Perpetuel Secours, our Lady of Perpetual Help.

You can track the signs, too, in Hurricane Ikeís path through Cuba. It roared through Nipe Bay near Santiago, where almost 400 years ago on that very day two young Indian brothers and a slave boy survived a storm and found a floating wood statue, bone dry, proclaiming ĄI am the Virgin of Charity.ď

As a multitude of Cuban exiles solemnly prayed the rosary Monday on the anniversary of the virginís apparition, Ikeís trajectory became a replay of historical misses and lost opportunities.

Ike kept pushing, challenging, reminding us of old battles as it ripped through central Cuba and swirled just a few miles from Playa Giron where young exiles fought in the failed Bay of Pigs invasion.

By Tuesday, Havanaís old buildings were crumbling from Ike. The storm was blamed for the death of at least four Cubans in other towns and was expected to do more damage to an already devastated Pinar del Rio province, where Gustav 10 days earlier destroyed crops and 100,000 homes.

How many more signs before we walk the compassionate conservative talk?

Haitians without U.S. immigration papers deserve temporary protected status. If not now, when? That immigration category is used during times of natural disasters and wars, giving undocumented immigrants the opportunity to remain in the United States and work, just as Salvadorans and Nicaraguans have been allowed to do.

You canít send help to your loved ones if youíre in an immigration cell, unable to work for no other crime than your status as persona non grata.

South Floridaís congressional delegation has consistently called for TPS for Haitians. Republicans and Democrats, alike, see the moral imperative. Republican U.S. Reps. Lincoln Diaz Balart, Mario Diaz Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen quickly called on President Bush to do right by Haiti on TPS, as have Rep. Kendrick Meek and other Democrats.

Students of history know there are pivotal moments that offer remarkable transformations. The collapse of the Berlin Wall that led to the end of the Soviet empire caught the West by surprise. Ike may be our test.

For Bush has the opportunity to rise above the expected political drill of nothing for Cuba until the Castro brothers leave. Itís good to see the Treasury Department is poised to approve new licenses for nongovernmental groups to offer hurricane relief to the Cuban people, but we can do more.

No one with any sense is saying dump the Cuba embargo and kiss up to the Castros. But whatís so wrong with a 90-day window for Cuban exiles to rush to their families left behind and offer help, as Democratic congressional candidate Raul Martinez has suggested?

I suspect Fidel and Raul wonít allow it. They only care about free credit so their already debt-driven government can get U.S. goods for nothing. Let them play politics with Cubansí suffering.

We are better than that.

Even for 90 days, only for 90 days, letís get rid of the political babble, the white noise and seize the challenge of our better angels.

Last updated: 10:13 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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