The following is from guest contributor Steven Forester who coordinates immigration policy advocacy for the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH).
July 12 will be six months since the quake. Last Saturday a Washington Post editorial again, as on January 29, urged the Obama Administration to promptly parole 55,000 beneficiaries of visa petitions DHS has already approved -- but who otherwise will languish years longer in Haiti due to the visa backlog -- citing as precedent DHS's creation in 2007 of a Cuban Family Reunification Parole Program. A favorable Post blog followed on Wednesday.
Creating a Haitian Family Reunification Parole Program would serve the same goals as the Cuban program and give Haiti's recovery a huge blood transfusion via their consequent remittances to an estimated 550,000 or more Haitians. You can support this goal.
Support for this proposal began soon after the quake. "What Haiti Needs: A Haitian Diaspora," by Elliot Abrams, appeared in the Washington Post on January 22, followed on January 29 by its excellent editorial, "The U.S. should welcome Haitians in." On February 4 and 5, Senator Gillibrand and Rep. Yvette Clark introduced S. 2998 and H.R. 4616 to give V visas to accomplish this goal, hoping to spur Administration action. On March 8 leading Democrats and four Republicans urged DHS Secretary Napolitano to bring them in, as did 75 organizations on March 12 who urged creation of a Haitian Family Reunification Parole Program for this purpose. On March 22 the Miami Herald editorial board urged parole of the 55,000, as did Haitian-American leaders on April 5 in their meeting with Vice President Biden in Miami. City councils have passed resolutions, as did the United States Conference of Mayors on June 14 in a strongly worded document. As the World Bank reported on May 17, "Haiti Remittances [Are] Key to Earthquake Recovery," but the Administration has remained silent! IJDH has been in the forefront of this fight.
Why hasn't the Administration paroled in these already-approved beneficiaries as a cost-free way to give Haiti's recovery a much-needed blood transfusion by stimulating the flow of remittances to hundreds of thousands? Why should 55,000 persons languish years longer unnecessarily due to a visa backlog in still-threatened Haiti instead of working and sending remittances home to help address Haiti's needs?
The Cuban Family Reunification Parole Program's rationale is to save lives and insure orderly migration by discouraging desperate sea voyages. Why can't the similarly-situated Caribbean nation whose immigrants have always been discriminated against get a similar program given the same rationale -- insuring orderly migration and discouraging desperate people from risking their lives at sea -- and with a big recovery benefit?!
Please call DHS's Public Comment line at 202 282 8495 and urge DHS to create a Haitian Family Reunification Parole Program to reunite families of approved beneficiaries and help Haiti recover. And please order and post your free laminated poster urging the Administration to do this now!