By Patricia Elizee
September 6, 2014
It is time for the Obama administration to grant Haitian Family Reunification Parole before more immigrants die.
Last week alone, 19 immigrants from Haiti came ashore in Hillsboro Beach. Of those 19, one young woman 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. 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 10 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 U.S. 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.
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.
Patricia Elizee is a Miami attorney, a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association and vice president of Haitian Lawyers Association.