This past week alone 19 Haitian immigrants came ashore in Hillsboro Beach, Florida. Of those 19, one young lady died and another was taken to North Broward Medical Center. A few days before that, four men were found dead, floating 20 miles east of Hollywood, Florida. No boats were found, no one arrested, no charges brought. It is time for the Obama Administration to finally grant Haitian Reunification Parole before more immigrants die.
Leaders in the Haitian community have lobbied for the implementation of a Haitian Family Reunification Parole Program to no avail. This program, if ever approved, would mirror the Cuban Family Reunification Parole Program. Under the current immigration system, when an immigration petition is approved, the beneficiary living abroad may wait as much as ten years for their number to be called before they are able to migrate legally to the United States. Under the Cuban Family Reunification Parole Program, beneficiaries of approved family-based immigration visa petitions are given an opportunity to travel to the United States rather than remain in Cuba until their immigrant visa case becomes current. The stated purpose of the Cuban Family Reunification Parole Program is to expedite family reunification through safe, legal, and orderly channels of migration to discourage dangerous and irregular maritime migration.
Because of the similarities between the Haitian and Cuban community, activists have tried for years to secure the same benefits for Haitians that Cubans enjoy. Haitians suffer the same if not worse economic, social, and political conditions and face the Atlantic with the same hopes and more desperation. With the 2010 earthquake, the inability of the Haitian government to stabilize, the increasing protests for elections, and now the de-naturalization of Haitians in the Dominican Republic, the US government’s goal of expediting family reunification through safe channels seems most appropriately applied to the Haitian community.
As of now there are more than 100,000 beneficiaries with approved family based petitions living in Haiti waiting for their numbers to be called. President Obama recently created the Deferred Actions for Childhood Arrivals program without the approval of Congress. He also has the ability to create a Haitian Family Reunification Parole Program in the same manner but his administration has yet to do so.
In an open letter to the President, the senior vice president of advocacy and policy for the NAACP, Hilary Shelton, wrote: “A Haitian Family Reunification Parole Program would save lives, speed recovery and serve our values. Everyone affected is already considered ‘legal’ and will come eventually, if they survive, to supporting families… Establishment of a Haitian Family Reunification Parole Program would simply allow these men, women, and children to wait for green cards in the United States rather than in Haiti, and if applicable they could apply for work permits so their remittance can help recover Haiti.”
The longer the Administration takes to act, the more families will die. This is the time to take action. The Haitian Family Reunication Parole program should be part of the President’s executive administrative immigration reform.