The readers’ forum

Create long-delayed Haitian family-reunification program


Jacqueline Charles’ excellent Jan. 28 article, Deadly voyages devastate Haitian island, underscores the need to fix a flawed policy. The Department of Homeland Security has approved family-based visa petitions for 110,000 Haitians on years-long wait lists in Haiti. President Obama should speed their entry.

Since the 2010 quake, creation of a Haitian Family Reunification Parole Program (FRPP) has been urged by 100 members of Congress, 10 editorial boards including the Miami Herald’s, the Miami-Dade County Commission, the New York, Philadelphia and North Miami city councils, the American Bar Association, the NAACP, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the Congressional Black Caucus, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, 6,000 petitioners and others.

Obama surrogates promised Haitian-American Floridians that he would expedite these paroles if reelected, but despite the merits, bipartisan pleas and the ease of implementation, he hasn’t.

Creating a Haitian FRPP would save lives: The 110,000 people approved by DHS are at risk in Haiti, whose misery includes a worsening cholera epidemic. They’d be safer with their petitioning American family members in communities that are not only in Florida.

Reuniting them would help Haiti, too. Augmenting the U.S. Treasury with large work-permit application fees, these employed Haitians would start sending remittances home; Haitians remit about $2 billion annually.

Thousands enter the United States under the ongoing FRPP for Cubans. Nationals of both lands risk their lives at sea, many Haitians dying during the horrific voyages that Charles documented. Creating a Haitian FRPP would end a double standard.

It would relieve at least some of the pressure leading to these tragedies. And Haitians under this program wouldn’t get a green card sooner — there’d be no “line jumping.” But they could wait for them in safety, like Cuban parolees, not in devastated Haiti.

Why the inaction? Obama hasn’t said, but there is no conflict between seeking congressional immigration reform and administratively expediting these paroles to save lives and help Haiti, whose recovery is in our national security interest given its proximity to our shores.

The president should instruct DHS to promptly create a Haitian FRPP, as the Herald and others have long urged.

Marleine Bastien,

executive director, Haitian Women

of Miami, Miami

Steven Forester, immigration policy coordinator, Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti, Miami

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