Advocates have taken an almost genteel tone in their appeal to U.S. officials to speed up visas for Haitians to travel to the United States in the aftermath of last month’s earthquake in Port-au-Prince. They’re right to turn up the volume.
Haitian groups are gearing up to travel from New Jersey to Washington to press the Obama administration to move faster on immigration visas for Haitians.
Last week, state and nonprofit officials met to discuss how New Jersey might handle an influx of Haitian immigrants should it have one. It’s good that community groups want to be ready to help a large number of possible evacuees. But first they’ll have to persuade Congress to change visa requirements. And that’s going to take a lot of convincing.
Their cause might be helped by legislation announced last week by Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.). He and other lawmakers plan to introduce a bill that would allow an estimated 55,000 Haitians to join their relatives in the United States. These are people who already have approved immigration petitions but are on waiting lists for visas because of quotas imposed by Congress.
It’s sensible legislation. Haiti has suffered its worst disaster in centuries, and the need to speed the process for those with visas already in the works is overwhelming.
Meanwhile, Haitian groups are afraid that without legal entry, people will continue to resort to desperate measures to flee the devastated island. Nearly 80 Haitian nationals fleeing the island aboard on an overloaded freighter in the Atlantic were stopped and returned to Haiti this week, the Coast Guard reported.
Which is just the sort of thing Haitian groups are trying to avoid — and why they’re raising their voices.
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