Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

Seventy international, national, and local organizations, joined by three individuals, wrote DHS Sec. Napolitano today urging broad Haitian immigration relief. The letter was organized by the Washington, D.C. office of Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS)

March 12, 2010

Secretary Janet Napolitano
Department of Homeland Security
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Washington, DC 20528
Dear Secretary Napolitano:
We write to express our appreciation for the actions you have taken since the January 12
earthquake in Haiti. As the full impact of the earthquake has become clear, we also write
to respectfully ask you to take additional steps to address the scope of current Haitian
migration needs.
Family reunification should be paramount at a time of such loss and grief. Expediting
family reunification through safe and orderly migration channels would keep families
together, increase U.S. remittances to Haiti, and help to avoid dangerous maritime
migration.
Equally important, while the U.S. takes steps to prevent Haitians from risking their lives
at sea, lawlessness, impunity, and persecution often follow natural disaster. Haitians
interdicted at sea must be screened to determine if they are refugees. The U.S. cannot
ignore its international treaty obligations to protect those who are fleeing persecution.
Specifically, we ask that DHS implement the following measures:

 

Create a Haitian Family Reunification Parole Program: Thousands of Haitians
who reside legally in the U.S., many as U.S. citizens, have been waiting for years
for the U.S. government to issue visas to their family members in Haiti so that
they may join them here. Some 19,000 Haitians have visa applications pending,
and nearly 55,000 Haitians have been approved for family visas but are on
waiting lists to enter because Congress has set limits on how many may come
each year. The Cuban Family Reunification Parole Program, implemented by
DHS under President George W. Bush in 2007, allows Cuban beneficiaries of
approved family-based immigrant visa petitions to come to the United States
rather than remain in Cuba during the long wait for a visa. A similar program
should be created for Haitians.

 

Grant Humanitarian Parole and TPS to Immediate Family Members of Haitians
with TPS: Immediate family members, including the spouse and children, of
Haitians granted TPS should be allowed to reunite with their family members and
be granted temporary legal status within the United States. Children should be
able to derive their parent’s TPS status for the time the parent is authorized to
legally reside and work in the United States. Spouses should be allowed to join
their TPS recipient spouses through humanitarian parole.

 

Create a Haitian Parole Lottery Program: To abate spontaneous and uncontrolled
migration from Haiti, the U.S. should consider replicating for Haitians the
successful Cuban parole lottery program, which has allowed individuals who do
not qualify as refugees or immigrants to seek to enter the United States with
humanitarian parole and which has been successful in significantly reducing the
number of Cubans attempting to reach the U.S. by sea. Access to the lottery
should be open to Haitians regardless of family ties to the U.S., education, or
work experience, and any fees associated with the program should be payable
after arrival in the U.S. This will help to ensure access for Haitians in most need
of the opportunity to support themselves and their families.

 

Consider Detained Haitians for Release: As Haitians have the potential to become “longterm”
DHS detainees because deportation could be delayed indefinitely due to the
conditions in Haiti, detained Haitians should be immediately released from detention
unless the government can demonstrate that they pose a danger to the community. All
Haitians released from detention should be provided with work authorization.

 

Rescind the “Shout Test”: Under a policy in place since the 1990s, only Haitians who
physically or verbally resist repatriation are evaluated to determine if they have been
persecuted or fear persecution in Haiti. Not all asylum seekers escaping by boat are
subject to this policy, known as the “shout test.” Cubans are provided information in
Spanish informing them that they can raise concerns about their return. Chinese are
given a questionnaire asking about their reasons for leaving their country. Haitians are
not screened at all, and as the U.S. does not require interpreters on the boats they cannot
truly communicate any fear of return. It is indefensible that Haitians are given unequal
opportunity to express a fear of persecution based solely on who they are and the fact that
they are from Haiti. DHS should abandon its policy of declaring that asylum seekers at
sea are not protected by the Refugee Convention and start ensuring that Haitian asylum
seekers interdicted at sea receive the protections to which they are entitled under our
country’s international treaty obligations.

We appreciate your attention to the plight of Haitians in the aftermath of this tragedy and
look forward to your response.
Sincerely,

 

International and National Organizations

 

American Immigration Council
American Immigration Lawyers Association
American Jewish Committee
American Jewish World Service
Asian American Justice Center
Association of Haitian Professionals
B’nai B’rith International
Black Alliance for Just Immigration
Christian Reformed Church Office of Social Justice
Church World Service-Immigration and Refugee Program
Daughters of Wisdom
Disciples Justice Action Network-Disciples of Christ
Dominican Sisters of Houston
Episcopal Migration Ministries
Ethiopian Community Development Council, Inc.
Friends Committee on National Legislation
Grassroots International
Haitian Renewal Alliance
Haitian-American Grassroots Coalition
Haitian American Volunteer Efforts Foundation
Haitian Diaspora Federation
Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society
Human Rights First
Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti
International Rescue Committee
Jesuit Refugee Service-U.S.A.
Jewish Council for Public Affairs
Jewish Council on Urban Affairs
Jewish Labor Committee
Jubilee Campaign U.S.A.
Lambi Fund of Haiti
Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service
Mennonite Central Committee U.S. Washington Office
National Immigration Forum
National Immigrant Justice Center
Quixote Center
Rabbinical Assembly
Refugee Women’s Network, Inc.
Refugees International
Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, South Central Community
Society of American Law Teachers
United Methodist Church
TransAfrica Forum
Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations
Unitarian Universalist Service Committee
United Methodist Church
U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants
Wider Church Ministries-United Church of Christ
Women of Reform Judaism
Women’s Refugee Commission
World Relief
Local Organizations

 

Baltimore Jewish Council: Baltimore, Maryland
Casa de Esperanza: Bound Brook, New Jersey
Catholic Caucus Southeast Michigan: Auburn Hills, Michigan
Center for Gender and Refugee Studies: San Francisco, California
Dominican Sisters of Houston: Houston, Texas
El Rescate Legal Services, Inc.: Los Angeles, California
Foundry United Methodist Church: Washington, District of Columbia
H.I.A.S. and Council Migration Service of Philadelphia: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Jewish Alliance for Law and Social Action: Boston, Massachusetts
Jewish Community Action: Saint Paul, MN
Jewish Family and Career Services: Atlanta, Georgia
Jewish Family Service: Seattle, Washington
Jewish Family Service of Buffalo and Erie County: Buffalo New York
Jewish Vocational Service of MetroWest, Inc.: East Orange, New Jersey
Pennsylvania Council of Churches: Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
Refugee Family Services, Inc.: Atlanta, Georgia
Sisters of Charity of Saint Elizabeth: Convent Station, New Jersey
United Jewish Appeal-Federation of New York: New York, New York
Welcoming Immigrants Network: Dallas, Texas

 

Individuals

 

Patrick Richard, PhD., Assistant Research Professor at George Washington University
Michael Clemens, Center for Global Development
Reverend Charles W. Dahm, O.P., Dominicans of North America

 

 

Contact IJDH

Institute for Justice & Democracy In Haiti
15 Newbury St
Boston, MA

Telephone: (617) 652-0876
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