Here’s what the Editorial Board said two years after a cataclysmic earthquake turned Port-au-Prince and much of the island to rubble, killing hundreds of thousands:
“President Obama has failed to do the one thing in his power that could help lift Haiti out of the morass that has engulfed it since the January 2010 earthquake: Order the Department of Homeland Security to admit into the United States the thousands of Haitian nationals whom DHS already has approved for U.S. visas. He could expedite this orderly migration process immediately. It doesn't take an act of Congress, literally.”
And three years after the earthquake:
“The U.S. government can do its part by speeding up the family reunification process. Homeland Security has already approved family-based visa petitions for 106,312 Haitians, but the waiting period to enter this country of 21/2 to 12 years makes little sense.”
And four years:
“The [Obama] administration has promised Haitian-American leaders in Miami and elsewhere that it would speed up family reunifications, but there's been little action so far.”
As Haiti zeros in on the fifth anniversary of the devastating earthquake, from which it is still battling its way back — and indeed, progress has been made — President Obama might have finally noticed a pattern and, at long last, decided to act.
On Friday, Mr. Obama announced that the Department of Homeland Security will establish a Haitian Family Reunification Parole Program for Haitians on the island who have already been approved to receive a family-based immigrant visa.
That breaks the logjam. By expediting the process, this administration will help relieve pressure on the impoverished island that still has few resources to put people to work.
The president’s decision increases the chance of remittances sent from U.S.-based Haitians — the migrants can apply for work permits — promotes family reunification and also brings U.S. policy toward Haiti in line with longstanding rules for Cuban migrants. It’s only fair.
DHS has approved family-based visa petitions for more than 100,000 Haitians who have yet to be allowed to feel their relatives’ embrace in the United States.
However, the program will only count as eligible those Haitians who are two years away from their “priority date,” an estimated 5,000 people. That’s a significant restriction, but it’s a start, however timid.
Of course, the Editorial Board’s wasn’t the only voice calling for the president to act over the years. Steven Forester, policy coordinator of the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti, said that there have been letters signed by South Florida’s entire Congressional delegation and editorials in major newspapers.
DHS has yet to determine the date of implementation. After all this time and foot-dragging, we would suggest immediately.