We can do a back-of-the-envelope calculation of what additional migration could do. Suppose the United States lets in 100,000 Haitian immigrants, which is the number that currently arrives over a span of five years. First, this would dramatically raise their incomes and raise essentially all of them out of extreme poverty. Second, this would increase the size of the worldwide Haitian diaspora by 10 percent. If the new migrants remit like earlier migrants did, this would mean roughly $150 million to 180 million every year in additional remittances for Haiti (and because things are so much tougher in Haiti now, we could expect new migrants to remit more than migrants have before). The Guardian reports that as of today the United States has committed a one-time total of $167 million in aid. Remittances recur year after year, and unlike aid, almost the whole amount of remittances goes directly into needy families' pockets.
Of course, migration alone is not "the answer" for all Haitians. Unfortunately, one big answer for all Haitians does not exist. As donors discuss what to do for Haitians going forward, it should be with extreme humility. Billions of dollars of aid have yielded very little poverty reduction there to date. Aid and other measures, such as improved access to U.S. markets, are worth continuing, of course, but they are unlikely to have dramatically different effects in the near future than they have had for the past two generations.
Migration, on the other hand, has clearly and demonstrably lifted many Haitians out of poverty. It should be an important component of the portfolio of assistance for Haiti. Many people react with fear to statements of this kind, thinking that "more" Haitians is synonymous with "every" Haitian, and that a flood of Haitians would sink the countries they would move to. But the numbers of Haitians moving to the United States has been so small -- just 2 percent of all immigrants to the United States -- that even a substantial increase would hardly constitute a flood.
I discussed these very issues further in a blog post, published the day before Haiti's tragedy, and it is certainly tragic that it took such an event to put the problem on world leaders' agenda.