What About An Airlift of Seriously Injured Haitians To The U.S.

Your thoughts on the idea I floated over at HughHewitt.com?


  1. George Best says

    As you note, you’d have to get Congress to change the immigration laws to let the injured in. I’m skeptical that many of them would ever go home once here. They’d claim asylum or otherwise abuse ICE procedure and stay legally or illegally. The politics and visuals of any immediate repatriation are such that many of the transported would wind up staying. After all, Aunt Zeituni is still here, right?

    If you want to facilitate the permanent immigration of a large number of Haitians, this is a good idea. But is should be debated on that basis. The idea that this would be a temporary program is a chimera.

    • Eugenia Slater says

      And go back home to what?? The place is a basket case under the best scenario. I wouldn’t go back.

      • Jack Lavelle says

        Why Eugenia, haven’t you heard Speaker Pelosi on the future of Haiti?

        “I think that this can be an opportunity for a real boom economy in Haiti,” she told reporters in the Capitol, drawing from her experience in San Francisco. Haiti “can leap-frog over its past challenges, economically, politically, and demographically in terms of the rich and poor and the rest there, and have a new — just a new, fresh start.”

        Makes sense to me…

        • Eugenia Slater says

          Ah, yes, more words of wisdom from the frozen-faced laughing hyena. That’s mean, I know. Sigh… Nov. ’10 can’t come soon enough.

    • Casey Paul says

      I assume that there could be a special “state of emergency” piece of law that could be passed for such a situation where no one could claim asylum, or concider them selves american-ized. it would be a temporary allowence to the country meerly for medical assistance?

  2. Doug Bentley says

    While true that such a move could get the more serious cases dealt with quickly, it would be a limited number of individuals being helped due to the limited numbers of people that could be transported if in serious condition (it is easier to move supplies than injured people). I just don’t see how the US red tape could be cut through to bring anyone to the US. Setting up triage centers in Haiti could help so many more who are not yet deemed bad enough to make a trip to the US, but who, without basic care, will likely develop serious problems later.

    Better to focus our attention on working with organizations like Compassion International (compassion.com), who have helped >65,000 Haitian children over 40 years (including Erseau Jn Charles who we sponsored in the 80’s and 90’s) and Samaritan’s Purse (samaritanspurse.org), who have already brought in emergency supplies and will work with the local churches to distribute care and supplies.

  3. p2_architect says

    I smell ACLU lawyers waiting for the planes to land and suing the US military for every Haitian that dies on the plan.

    • George Best says

      And waiting to file asylum applications for the survivors pro bono. Hugh’s heart is in the right place, but this is a bad, bad idea.

  4. Scot says


    A nice seeming idea, but it would be cruel to bring any number of people to the US for medical care, only to force them back into the sewer that is Haiti.

    Airlifting seriously injured individuals is not something that every aircraft is set up for. Additionally, it would require medical personnel on each flight back to the States, medical personnel that could be better used on the ground.


  5. Scot says

    Another thought, putting bodies on aircraft without trained medical personnel would be the equivalent of leaving them in the clinics without care.

  6. tanstaafl says

    Any Haitians brought to the US would NEVER leave. Does any one remember the Mariel boat lift? I do not want a large number of the maybe the most dis-functional culture on Earth to become permanent residents of the US…and you know they would. Help them as much as you can in Haiti.

    • Andy Nechyba says

      In South Florida we have a large Haitian immigrant community and they are successful here just like immigrants who have fled oppression from other countries. I have hired and worked with Haitian immigrants. tanstaafl implies that the dis-functional society somehow makes individual Haitian inherently flawed. There is not justification for such an argument.

      In any case, Hugh’s idea of airlift injured Haitian is not about immigration, but about responding effectively to enormous human suffering. We should try it and try it fast. The focus should be on seriously injured people who can be saved in US hospitals but are likely to die or be permanently disabled in Haiti.

      Let’s worry about the immigration implications later. There is no time work all this out now. A few hundreds or thousand Haitians can easily be absorbed if they would end up staying and I am sure they would feel enormous gratitude towards the country that saved them and be highly motivated to become productive members of out society.

      Help is urgently needed and we should try innovative ideas like what Hugh Hewitt has proposed.

  7. quidnunc says

    Bad idea!

    Firstly, flying critical cases in aircraft not specially equipped for critical-care transport is a recipe for trouble.

    Secondly, once they’re here they will be here for the duration and there will eventually be pressure to allow them to bring in their extended families.

    There will always be greater need in Haiti than the rest of the world has resources to fix.

    We should do in Haiti what we reasonably can to help the Haitians survive, but we can’t do it all by ourselves.

    The Haitians have to take responsibility for themselves if their country is to be fixed, and in the 300 years since the country became independent they have shown little if any inclination to do so.

    Haiti was so chaotic that the U.S. intervened militarily in 1915 and governed the country until 1934.

    We were able to eventually restore order, but when we left the country gradually reverted back into a hellhole.

    Let the U.N. handle the problem.

    It will give then something to do to occupy their time so they will stop pestering us elsewhere in the world.

    • Justin Flavin says

      With thousands of U.S. troops en route, and their government effectively broken, I wouldn’t be too surprised that we’re heading back to pre-1934.

      In that Haiti is going to be effectively “occupied” by the U.S.

      Long term solution after the immediate disaster – ask the Haitians if they want to become a U.S. overseas territory , like Puerto Rico.

      I suspect the response will be an overwhelming YES.

  8. Earl Aagaard says

    What George Best said in #1….

    TERRIBLE idea, Hugh…..every one is going to end up a ward of the state and a reliable voter for the leftists.

  9. Judy Olsen says


    I simply don’t believe that you could make a dent in the numbers of injured fast enough to do them any good. I understand that it is not only difficult to get planes in there is no fuel to get them out. Military planes have enough fuel apparently to make the return trip, but other planes can’t get out due to the lack of fuel. I understand that even Evergreen Airlines from here won’t go because of problems getting in and out and they’ll go anywhere (eg. Iraq ).

    We really need to get aid to Haiti to save the max number of people. I think it would be ok to bring difficult cases here once they are stabilized, but I’m afraid more people will die if we get hung up on bringing the injured here.

    Let’s all help get aid to these people as quickly as possible.

  10. Kerry Davis says

    The amount of treatment required to make the seriously injured stable enough to make the trip especially in military transport planes would end up making it no longer critical that they be moved. Such an argument might be possible if there were NO medical treatment AT ALL to be found right there, and even if the planes wound up being pretty much flying hearses as a result it would still be better than nothing at all, but that’s clearly not the case in this situation.

  11. George Best says

    Some additional reasons why this is just such a bad idea.

    1) Hugh ignores opportunity costs:

    Accept the following–people are going to die because of lack of medical care. There are just too many injured. Now let’s assume that you need 1 medico (MD, Nurse, etc.) for every 2 patients in flight. That’s the number ratio that an AF Capt. gave on yesterday’s show. Haiti is a minimum of 2 hours flight from the US. If the patients are going to other parts of the US, the one way flight time could be as long as 8 hours. So for every 100 patients transported out, you tie up 50 medicos for a minimum of 4 – 16 hours round trip flying time. A reasonable average might be 8 hours.

    How many patients could those 50 medicos have helped during that time? Anything more than 1 patient per medico per 4 hours means more people get help if they’re all in Haiti. If it averages 1 person per medico per hour, 400 people get help in Haiti. (SOMEONE WITH ACTUAL MEDICAL EXPERIENCE GIVE ME A REASONABLE NUMBER). Would all of them have been as critically injured as that people Hugh wants to fly out? No. But if only 25% of them would die or suffer severe disability is left untreated in Haiti, you’re doing more help with the medicos on the ground in Haiti.

    2) US Hospitals don’t have much capacity. The American Hospital Assocition says there are about 951,000 beds in US hospitals.

    Assume (I’d be happy if someone can point me toward better data) that 20% of these beds are vacant on average. The system probably couldn’t take more that half that number patients without stress because you need to leave space for surges due to local situations (NB, in some places hospitals, especially emergency departments, are overloaded already). That means that there a max of 95,100 people to bring to the US. Plus, because these patients are far from home and family, it’s likely that the average stay would be longer than for a US citizen from the area. In Haiti, you’d be able to rely upon local family care to augment volunteer nurses–that’s commonly done in thrid world hospitals.

    But Hugh is talking about bringing serious cases who are more likely to need intensive care. There are 87,400 ICU beds in teh country. If they’re available at the same rate as general beds (unlikely), only 8,800 people could be helped.

    3) Opportunity costs again. All of the above is costly. Unless the government makes doctors and hospitals cover all the costs, someone will have to pay. (Would doctors and hospitals cover at least some of these costs voluntarilty, certainly, but all of them?) It’s likely that the money woudl go much further on the ground in Haiti.

    4) Hugh assumes that the planes will be coming back empty. Unlikely, as US nationals in Haiti will almost certainly be evacuated on many of those flights. If you turn the flights into medical evac flights, you’ll need to provide food, water, and security for the US nationals you’re leaving in Haiti.

    And those are quick thoughts from a lawyer. I’m sure a medical professional could add many more reasons why Hugh is out to lunch on this.

    In short, I understand and respect Hugh’s desire to help the critically hurt. The unfortuneate fact is that people are going to die and be crippled as a result of their injuries. Pushing as many resources on scene will reduce that number more than spending the same resources to bring people to us.

  12. Jennifer Sklepko says

    If we could rebuild Germany and Japan after WWII, assist in rebuilding Irag and Afganistan with “hostiles”, perhaps it is time to assist the Haitians in “rebuilding” Haiti. There are so many incredible humanitarians who have been in Haiti for years making small differences. Americans will work hard to heal the wounds of the injured because that is who we are. Regardless of what our detractors say America has the biggest heart in the entire world for those in need. Our objective after the humanitarian effort should be to help make Haiti a place Haitians can live in freedom and dignity with infrastructure, education and jobs.

  13. Michael A Lavender says

    Taking the injured to existing medical facilities makes a lot of sense. But according to Michael Moore, it wold make “more” sense to give them a short boat ride over to the wonderful Cuban medical system.

  14. Joyce Sharnin says

    I say lets do it. Let’s save lives. Begin treating the injured right away on medically staffed & equipped planes.

  15. Justin Flavin says

    There is a very dangerous public safety aspect with this – if word got out that Haitians were being airlifted out of the country that airport would be simply overrun by hundreds of thousands of extremely desparate people – shades of the Saigon helicopter airlift only hundred times worse.

    And being overwhelmed the U.S. military might end up taking drastic and lethal action. Not a very nice prospect I’m sure you will agree.

    However, I think we have GOT to “fix” Haiti – and that should entail an offer to make it a U.S. overseas territory , much like the U.S. Virgin Islands or Puerto Rico. Heck, make it the 51st state of the Union if need be – it cannot remain an utter hellhole and basket case.

  16. quidnunc says

    We have no obligation to Haiti, and besides, efforts to make Haiti a functioning nation are doomed to fail.

    Here is what Anne Aplebaum has to say about this:

    “…(A)ll the reconstruction expertise will have to come from outside. Most of it will come from the United States. Yet for all the obvious historical reasons, this outside expertise will be unacceptable to many Haitians, who will see it as a colonial imposition, unwarranted interference in local affairs, cultural imperialism. Armed U.S. Marines may wind up in fire fights with those violent gangs. Local elites — those who remain — may plot to swindle the aid missions out of their food and money.”

    (Anne Applebaum in Slate, January 16, 2010)

    We attempted to overhaul Haiti once and failed.

    No amount of assistance of any kind can do more than temporarily ameliorate Haiti’s troubles until there is a fundamental cultural change within the country, and there are no visible signs that such is taking place.

    • Martin Wornath says

      I think the military should focus on getting the port fixed (and I’m sure they are). Once that is done, this could all be a moot point because the military would be able to dock hospital ships in the capital city – problem solved. Once that point is reached, that would be a lot more efficient than trying to fly injured people to our shores.

      • Justin Flavin says

        watching the news reports on this over here in the uk today. its getting more and more desperate.

        swear to God – 51st state option is the only way. it would give these poor , downtrodden people some *hope*.

        and i use that word deliberately. “hope n change”.. well here is a prime example of why we should give folks hope AND change.

  17. Nathan Hansen says

    I think we should give what aid we can and if that means bringing people onto our soil then so be it. We should also utilize military and other facilities we have in south and central America.

    • Justin Flavin says

      pure aid never works. and never has done.

      we need to do something different this time with Haiti.

      51st state is my preferred option – Haitians might disagree.. Puerto Rico association maybe..

      either way something has GOT to change to rescue those poor folks from an obviously corrupt government thats more concerned with their presidential palaces.

      • Nathan Hansen says

        I agree that aid isn’t a long term solution – but there are basic needs that have to be met first. Once people aren’t bleeding and dying from injuries and have access to food and water then it’s time to start looking towards what can be done for the country in the long run. For me the answer to long term problems is unfettered capitalism – bring in foreign investment and create vast opportunities.