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Florida lawmakers ask Obama to grant special status to Haiti

While progress is being made in a hurricane-ravaged Haiti, the country remains in need of assistance, including temporary relief from deportation for thousands of undocumented Haitians living in the United States, a South Florida congressional delegation said Monday after a day-long visit to the Caribbean nation.

Led by Miami Democrat Kendrick Meek, the group met with President René Préval, key Haitian business leaders, U.S. embassy personnel and U.S. Coast Guard officials. It included Weston Democrat Debbie Wasserman Schultz, along with Republicans Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, and Mario and Lincoln Diaz-Balart.

"There are so many wonderful things that are happening in Haiti," said Ros-Lehtinen, who highlighted the University of Miami's Project Medishare Program that is training Haitian doctors and health professionals in the country.

"There's a lot that we can do. There's a lot that we can do together. Haiti's problems must be paid attention to. We can be part of that solution," said Ros-Lehtinen, ranking minority member of the foreign affairs committee.

Lincoln Diaz-Balart said in addition to granting an estimated 30,000 Haitians Temporary Protected Status, the Obama administration can further help Haiti by revising the State Department's travel warning to American citizens.

Haitians and U.S. business owners have long complained that the travel warning is an impediment to attracting critical investments to the country.

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