Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

Editorial: Don’t Make Eligible Haitians Wait

Published By Long Island Newsday

Photo credit: AP | A boy carries home a bucket of water for bathing in the Cite Soleil slum in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. (June 19, 2012)

Despite the attention our immigration crisis has claimed in recent weeks, Haitians approved for visas to the United States are still suffering in obscurity, waiting in that earthquake-ravaged nation for the prized visas to actually be issued.

President Barack Obama should stop dawdling and spare them that purgatory by clearing away the bureaucratic obstacles to their immigration.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has approved 112,000 Haitians for visas that will allow them to be reunited with family legally in the United States, in particularily the New York region. But their wait for the visas to be issued could stretch as long as 11 years. The bottleneck is the quota that limits the number of Haitians, and those from many other nations, allowed to emigrate annually to the United States. Making Haitians wait so long is unconscionable.

That island nation, 700 miles from Miami, was devastated in 2010 by an earthquake that took the lives of 300,000 people and left more than 1 million homeless. Within months, an additional 7,000 died in a cholera outbreak. There are still 634,000 Haitians living in displacement camps as the impoverished nation of 10 million struggles to right itself.

Some of those trapped in that horror are the sons and daughters and spouses of Haitians legally in the United States who have pledged to support them financially when they get here. Once here, the adults among them could work and send money home, boosting a big source of income for the island.

Obama should order a program for Haiti like the one that has existed since 2007 for Cubans. The law provides that discretion for urgent humanitarian reasons. This program wouldn’t allow anyone to jump the line for a green card. Rather than waiting in Haiti for permission to leave, however, the 112,000 people with approved visa petitions could wait it out safely here.

Obama recently ordered a temporary end to deportations of people brought to the United States illegally as children. He should give Haitians looking to legally join their families here a break too.

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