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Haitian Family Reunification Program

DHS as of November 1, 2013 had approved family-based immigrant visa petitions for 110,000 Haitians who remain on wait lists of up to more than 12 years in Haiti, where many may have died and all are at risk given cholera and other conditions.  Since Haiti’s January 2010 earthquake, many have urged the President to have DHS create a Haitian Family Reunification Parole Program (FRPP), like the ongoing Cuban FRPP created administratively by DHS in 2007 under which tens of thousands of approved Cuban beneficiaries have been paroled into the United States.


Supporters include 100 congresspersons of both parties, 10 major editorial boards in at least 17 editorials, the Miami-Dade County Commission, the New York and Philadelphia city councils, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, American Bar Association, Congressional Black Caucus, NAACP, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, 6,000 petitioners, etc.


Two exacerbating factors support this action now.  Many mainstream news reports document what the U.S. Coast Guard knows and confirms all too well: desperate Haitian migrants are dying at sea in ever-increasing numbers as smugglers cause them to brave perilous routes, including the notoriously treacherous 80-mile-wide Mona Passage strait toward Puerto Rico, often abandoning them to die.  The smugglers “are ruthless,” Chief of Enforcement Captain Mark Fedor of the Coast Guard's Seventh District in Miami recently told the Wall Street Journal:  "They want to get the run done and collect their money… there's probably a lot of death we don't know about.”


Secondly, the unfortunate inability of Congress to pass immigration legislation recommends this long-urged and imperative action.  Creating a Haitian FRPP would be consistent with the President’s State of the Union pledge to act administratively when appropriate.


It makes no sense for Haitians long since approved by DHS to join their families in the United States to remain on years-long wait lists in Haiti.


Creating a Haitian FRPP would save lives: the 110,000 Haitians at risk in our hemisphere’s poorest nation -- now enduring an unchecked cholera epidemic which has killed thousands and sickened hundreds of thousands -- would be safer with their petitioning U.S. family members in our communities.


Reuniting these families would also speed Haiti’s recovery: after paying the U.S. Treasury significant fees applying for work permits, employed parolees would begin and continue into the indefinite future sending to loved ones in Haiti crucially-needed remittances, which are the most effective and cost-effective form of foreign aide; Haitians remit about $2 billion annually, mostly from the diaspora in the United States.


Both Cubans and Haitians risk their lives in Caribbean waters, and Haiti’s recovery is in our national and border security interests given its proximity to our shores and our nation’s significant Haitian American population.  Right in terms of foreign policy, humanity and fairness, an HFRPP would also relieve at least some of the despair which leads people to put their lives into the hands of smugglers.  Nor would anyone get a “green card” any sooner – there would be no “line jumping” – but they could wait for them in safety, like their Cuban counterparts, not in still-suffering Haiti.


It is high time for President Obama to keep his promise .  It is time that he advises the Secretary of Homeland Security to create a Haitian Family Reunification Parole .  It is about justice, it is about fairness. It is about equal treatment. It is about time!


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