Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

Haitian-American Professionals Express “frustration and disappointment” at President’s Inaction on Haitian Family Reunification, June 3, 2012

In his May 31 letter (shown below), the chairperson of Florida’s Haitian-American Professionals Coalition (HAPC), comprising 14 organizations, writes President Obama “to express our frustration and disappointment” because “there can be no justification for the large number of our relatives, long approved to join their families in the United States, left to languish on a waiting list in Haiti of 3 to 11 years.”

He writes, “For 28 months, since the January 12, 2010 earthquake, we have implored your administration to save lives and help Haiti recover by expediting the parole into the U.S. of our approved relatives.”  He cites much of the overwhelming and bipartisan congressional, national and Florida support; the Cuban program DHS created in 2007 and renewed in 2010; and last year’s Center for Global Development paper stressing the applicability of that program’s rationale and urging creation of a similar Haitian program to help Haiti recover.

HAPC Chairperson Richard Champagne continues:

“On March 22, 2010, in the first of three editorials supporting this, the Miami Herald editorial board said, ‘There is no valid argument for failing to move quickly on this front.’  On January 9, 2012, Miami Herald editors wrote that ‘the Obama Administration should say Yes to a bipartisan plea by Florida legislators to speed up visas for more than 100,000 Haitians waiting to join their families.’  Incidentally, Massachusetts State Representative Linda Dorcena-Forry will soon send you petitions from over 6,000 Americans urging you to do this.

“Please instruct DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano to either create a Haitian FRPP [Family Reunification Parole Program] or at least promptly expedite the parole into the United States of some of the most vulnerable and deserving of the 112,000 DHS-approved beneficiaries languishing in Haiti on an inhumane wait list.  She could for example begin with some of the subgroup of 15,000 minor children and spouses of legal permanent residents, whose wait time — despite DHS approvals — is nearly three years.”

“Despite our frustration and disappointment we still have tremendous hope that you will do the right thing and change these inhumane circumstances through a meaningful policy change, as urged by all.”

Champagne’s letter is the latest such expression by South Florida Haitian American leaders.  On May 24, Haitian American elected leaders and attorneys publicly expressed their disappointment with the President for still failing to expedite Haitian family reunification in a press conference videotaped and broadcast for at least three days on Haitian community Island TV and the subject of NPR radio affiliate and Sun-Sentinel reports.  See “Haitian Americans urge Obama to speed up visa processing for relatives,” Sun-Sentinel, May 31, 2012, at

http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/local/breakingnews/fl-reunification-20120530,0,7646055.story , and “Haitian-American leaders ask Obama to speed up visa process — Many Haitians with family in the United States already have their visas, but have to wait for years to enter the country. Haitian American leaders think this is not fair. They discussed the situation in North Miami’s City Hall on Thursday. … Listen now,” WLRN/Miami Herald radio news, May 28, 2012 (third item down under “5/28″ at  http://www.miamiherald.com/wlrn/ ).

THE FOLLOWING IS THE LETTER:

 

May 31, 2012

President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue N.W.
Washington D.C. 20500

Dear President Obama:

As the leader of a professional organization comprising of fourteen core associations, I write to express our frustration and disappointment on a matter of concern not only to the Haitian-American community but many others: the inhuman policy of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) toward Haiti in the aftermath of the devastating January 12, 2010 earthquake.  There can be no justification for the large number our relatives, long approved to join their families in the United States, left to languish on a waiting list in Haiti of 3 to 11 years, given the devastating conditions there.

For 28 months, since the January 12, 2010 earthquake, we have implored your administration to save lives and help Haiti recover by expediting the parole into the U.S. of our approved relatives.  Nearly 100 members of Congress including Senators Cardin, Durbin, Gillibrand, Kerry, Lautenberg, Leahy, Menendez, and Bill Nelson and nearly every member of the Congressional  Black Caucus; the editorial boards of theWashington Post and the Miami Herald, among others; MA Governor Deval Patrick; the North Miami City Council, the South Toms River City Council, the New York City Council, the Philadelphia City Council, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, and the Republican-controlled Florida State Senate all have urged you to expedite Haitian family reunification.

Moreover, House Foreign Affairs Chair Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Republican Senators Marco Rubio and Scott Brown have written letters imploring your administration to create a Haitian Family Reunification Parole Program (FRPP) to “mirror” the Cuban FRPP. All of these elected officials and media entities have urged you to create a Haitian FRPP or otherwise act to expedite Haitian family reunification.

It’s important to note what is being asked here is not without precedents.  DHS’s 2007 Cuban Family Reunification Parole Program (FRPP), later extended by your administration in 2010, has paroled over 30,000 identically-situated Cubans since 2009 alone.

The Center for Global Development in a paper last June urged your administration to create a Haitian FRPP, saying the Cuban program’s rationale of saving lives at sea and providing for orderly migration applies with equal force and that doing so would save lives and generate remittances in Haiti.

On March 22, 2010, in the first of three editorials supporting this, the Miami Herald editorial board said, “There is no valid argument for failing to move quickly on this front.” On January 9, 2012, Miami Herald editors wrote that “the Obama Administration should say Yes to a bipartisan plea by Florida legislators to speed up visas for more than 100,000 Haitians waiting to join their families.”  Incidentally, Massachusetts State Representative Linda Dorcena-Forry will soon send you petitions from over 6,000 Americans urging you to do this.  So we’re still hopeful that you will do the right thing.

Please instruct DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano to either create a Haitian FRPP or at least promptly expedite the parole into the United States of some of the most vulnerable and deserving of the 112,000 DHS-approved beneficiaries languishing in Haiti on an inhumane wait list.  She could for example begin with some of the subgroup of 15,000 minor children and spouses of legal permanent residents, whose wait time–despite DHS approvals–is nearly three years.

Despite our frustration and disappointment we still have tremendous hope that you will do the right thing and change these inhumane circumstances through a meaningful policy change, as urged by all.

Thank you for your consideration on this issue.

Sincerely,

 

Richard Champagne, Esq.
Haitian American Professionals Coalition, Inc.
Chairman

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