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Mass­a­chu­setts’ Con­gres­sional Lead­ers Urge DHS Sec­re­tary Napoli­tano to Save Lives and Help Haiti by Reuni­fy­ing Hait­ian Families

October 27, 2011


Steven Forester, Immi­gra­tion Pol­icy Coor­di­na­tor, Insti­tute for Jus­tice & Democ­racy in Haiti, 786–877‑6999, (U.S.)

Mass­a­chu­setts’ Con­gres­sional Lead­ers Urge DHS Sec­re­tary Napoli­tano to Save Lives and Help Haiti by Reuni­fy­ing Hait­ian Families

(Boston, Octo­ber 26, 2011) – Yes­ter­day U.S. Depart­ment of Home­land Secu­rity Sec­re­tary Janet Napoli­tano was again urged to promptly parole into the United States Hait­ian ben­e­fi­cia­ries of approved family-based visa peti­tions, to “mir­ror” the Cuban Fam­ily Reuni­fi­ca­tion Parole Pro­gram which promptly paroles such ben­e­fi­cia­ries and help Haiti recover from last year’s dev­as­tat­ing earth­quake by gen­er­at­ing sig­nif­i­cant remittances.

United States Sen­a­tors John Kerry and Scott Brown and United States Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Michael Capuano, Bar­ney Frank, James McGov­ern, Edward Markey, John Olver, and Stephen Lynch, all of Mass­a­chu­setts, urge Sec­re­tary Napolitano:

“We write with what we believe to be a sim­ple and com­pelling request: that you use your author­ity to parole into the United States the ben­e­fi­cia­ries, now in Haiti, of approved fam­ily based immi­gra­tion peti­tions, with­out regard to the pri­or­ity date of the appli­ca­tions.  Mem­bers of Con­gress made this request in the imme­di­ate after­math of the Jan­u­ary 2010 earth­quake.  Con­di­tions in Haiti remain deplorable, and, in many cases, life threat­en­ing.  Fam­ily mem­bers in the United States con­tinue to express to us their anx­i­ety and anguish about chil­dren and spouses liv­ing there.”

They state that “we believe this exer­cise of parole author­ity, which would mir­ror that of the Cuban Fam­ily Reuni­fi­ca­tion Parole Pro­gram estab­lished in 2007, to be just and appro­pri­ate” and “are chiefly con­cerned to reunite fam­i­lies of legal per­ma­nent res­i­dents sep­a­rated from spouses and minor chil­dren.  We respect­fully request imme­di­ate exer­cise of parole author­ity on their behalf.”
They also affirm that there “would be sub­stan­tial ben­e­fits in admit­ting adult chil­dren of cit­i­zens and LPR’s.  Hait­ian adults, gain­fully employed in the United States, would, we are con­vinced, aid in the recon­struc­tion of Haiti through remit­tances which they would send to their extended fam­i­lies there.”
Yesterday’s let­ter ref­er­ences a March 8, 2010 let­ter to Sec­re­tary Napoli­tano urg­ing this same relief from eight lead­ing House mem­bers of both par­ties, includ­ing Repub­li­can U.S. Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Chairman of the U.S. House Com­mit­tee on For­eign Affairs.  Her coun­ter­part, Sen­a­tor Kerry, who has now writ­ten two let­ters urg­ing this relief, is Chair­man of the U.S. Sen­ate Com­mit­tee on For­eign Relations.
Mass­a­chu­setts Gov­er­nor Deval Patrick has also urged Sec­re­tary Napoli­tano to do this.  In his Sep­tem­ber 22, 2011 let­ter, the Gov­er­nor wrote, “An exer­cise of parole author­ity would allow Haitians with an already approved, legal method of enter­ing the United States to be reunited with close fam­ily mem­bers in the United States while await­ing visa avail­abil­ity. Expe­dit­ing fam­ily reuni­fi­ca­tion through safe and orderly chan­nels would bring fam­i­lies together safely with­out the risk of a dan­ger­ous mar­itime migra­tion, and would allow for greater remit­tances to be sent to aid Haiti’s recovery.”
These let­ters cham­pi­oning Hait­ian fam­ily reuni­fi­ca­tion join calls for this relief from the edi­to­r­ial boards of the Boston Globe, Chicago Tri­bune, Los Ange­les Times, Philadel­phia Inquirer, Wash­ing­ton Post, San Anto­nio Express News, Miami Her­ald, News­day, Star-Ledger, and Palm Beach Post, in thir­teen sep­a­rate edi­to­ri­als; from Philadelphia’s City Coun­cil and the U.S. Con­fer­ence of May­ors in strong resolutions; from six U.S. Sen­a­tors in a sep­a­rate 2011 let­ter; from Haitian-American lead­ers and edi­to­r­ial writ­ers; and in a June 2011 Cen­ter for Global Devel­op­ment work­ing paper urg­ing DHS to cre­ate a Hait­ian Fam­ily Reuni­fi­ca­tion Parole Pro­gram and to start by promptly parol­ing vul­ner­a­ble chil­dren and spouses.
As of Novem­ber 1, 2010, the United States had approved family-based immi­grant visa peti­tions for 105,000 ben­e­fi­cia­ries who nev­er­the­less remain on a wait list of four to eleven years in Haiti, where many may not sur­vive.  In con­trast, over 30,000 approved Cuban ben­e­fi­cia­ries have been paroled into the United States since 2009 alone under the Cuban FRPP, which the Mass­a­chu­setts lead­ers urge DHS Sec­re­tary Napoli­tano to “mirror.”
In urg­ing this action as a low-cost way to help Haiti recover, the authors of “Migra­tion as a Tool for Dis­as­ter Recov­ery: A Case Study on U.S. Pol­icy Options for Post-Earthquake Haiti,” Center for Global Devel­op­ment, June 2011, note:
  • Rather than wait­ing 4 to 11 years for a visa in Haiti, ben­e­fi­cia­ries could be paroled into the United States where they can be reunited with fam­ily and have employ­ment authorization.
  • The pro­posal has merit not only for the human­i­tar­ian pur­pose it would serve but also to enable Haitians to send more remit­tances home and fos­ter eco­nomic devel­op­ment with greater speed.
  • Insti­tut­ing a fam­ily reuni­fi­ca­tion parole pro­gram for Haitians is sim­pler than it may appear, since it requires no con­gres­sional action.
  • The Cuban program’s ratio­nale of sav­ing lives at sea and pro­vid­ing for orderly migra­tion applies with equal force to Haiti.
  • No one would get a “green card” any sooner — like the Cubans, they’d just be able to wait for them here w/their fam­i­lies rather than in Haiti.
Since Haiti’s Jan­u­ary 12, 2010 earth­quake, IJDH has led national efforts to per­suade the White House to cre­ate a Hait­ian FRPP.  Grass­roots efforts are under­way in areas includ­ing Florida, New York, and Mass­a­chu­setts, where a ded­i­cated team of vol­un­teers helped secure yesterday’s letter, which the Hait­ian Amer­i­can com­mu­nity and its sup­port­ers strongly wel­come and applaud.
At the Insti­tute for Jus­tice & Democ­racy in Haiti (IJDH), we fight for the human rights of Haiti’s poor in court, on the streets, and wher­ever deci­sions about Haitians’ rights are made. We rep­re­sent vic­tims of injus­tice, includ­ing earth­quake vic­tims, vic­tims of gender-based vio­lence, and the unjustly impris­oned. Together with our Hait­ian affil­i­ate, the Bureau des Avo­cats Inter­na­tionaux (BAI), we have six­teen years of demon­strated suc­cess enforc­ing Haitians’ human rights in Haiti and abroad. Visit Fol­low @IJDH on Twitter.
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