Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

63 U.S. Representatives Strongly Urge President to Create a Haitian Family Reunification Program

May 30, 2014

U.S. Representatives Alcee Hastings and Mario Diaz-Balart, joined by 61 of their colleagues (Foreign Affairs committee member Rep. Connolly asked to join after the letter had been sent), strongly urged President Obama Friday to create a Haitian Family Reunification Parole Program “to save lives and accelerate Haiti’s recovery efforts. This would allow Haitians with approved family-based visa petitions to come to the United States while they await their visas.”

Co-signers include eight other Foreign Affairs Committee members (Ros-Lehtinen, Engel, Keating, Deutch, Sires, Frankel, Bass, Meeks); four Immigration Subcommittee members (Lofgren, Gutierrez, Jackson Lee, and Garcia); and the members of the South Florida congressional delegation.

The letter references continuing deplorable conditions including tent camps, the ongoing deadly cholera outbreak, and “what the U.S. Coast Guard knows all too well. Desperate Haitians are increasingly abandoned and dying at sea as they resort to smugglers to cross perilous routes…, including the notoriously treacherous 80-mile-wide Mona Passage strait toward Puerto Rico.”

The House members write: “Creating a Haitian Family Reunification Parole Program would not only save lives and reunite families, but empower individuals to actively assist in Haiti’s recovery. Haitians remit about $2 billion annually, mostly from the diaspora in the United States, and Haitian parolees would be able to obtain work permits and send much-needed remittances back to Haiti.”

Urging the President “to put an end to the indefinite waiting lists as soon as possible through the creation of a Haitian Family Reunification Parole Program,” they write: “As of November 1, 2013, DHS had approved family-based immigration visa petitions for 109, 489. However, due to arbitrary per country limits, they unconscionably remain on waiting lists of up to more than 12 years in Haiti. Your administration can take immediate steps to save and improve lives by allowing Haitians who have already been approved to join their families in the United States.”

Please see Rep. Hastings’ press release below and click HERE for the letter.

For Immediate Release                                                      Contact: Evan Polisar

May 30, 2014                                                                              (202) 225-1313

Hastings and Diaz-Balart Call for Creation of Haitian Family Reunification Parole Program

(Washington, D.C.) Today, Representatives Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL) and Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL), along with 61 of their colleagues in Congress, sent the following letter to President Barack Obama, urging him to direct the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to create a Haitian Family Reunification Parole Program that would allow Haitians with approved family-based visa petitions to come to the United States and work while they await their visas. (Please find below and attached a copy of the letter).

Joining Hastings and Diaz-Balart as co-signers of the letter were (61): Reps. John Conyers, Jr., Charles B. Rangel, George Miller, John Lewis, Frank Pallone, Jr., Elliot L. Engel, Jim McDermott, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, James P. Moran, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Maxine Waters, Jerrold Nadler, Sanford D. Bishop, Jr., Corrine Brown, Luis V. Gutiérrez, Eddie Bernice Johnson, Lucille Roybal-Allard, Bobby L. Rush, Bennie G. Thompson, Chaka Fattah, Sheila Jackson Lee, Zoe Lofgren, Earl Blumenauer, Donna M. Christensen, Danny K. Davis, James P. McGovern, Gregory W. Meeks, John F. Tierney, Barbara Lee, Michael E. Capuano, Janice D. Schakowsky, Wm. Lacy Clay, Michael M. Honda, Raúl M. Grijalva, David Scott, Emanuel Cleaver, Al Green, Gwen Moore, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Albio Sires, Kathy Castor, Yvette D. Clarke, Steve Cohen, Henry C. “Hank” Johnson, Jr., Peter Welch, André Carson, Theodore E. Deutch, Karen Bass, William R. Keating, Cedric L. Richmond, Frederica S. Wilson, Donald M. Payne, Jr., Matt Cartwright, Lois Frankel, Joe Garcia, Robin L. Kelly, Mark Pocan, Marc A. Veasey, Elijah E. Cummings, José E. Serrano, and Donna F. Edwards.

May 30, 2014

The Honorable Barack H. Obama
President of the United States
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:
We write to strongly urge you to direct the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to create a Haitian Family Reunification Parole Program in order to save lives and accelerate Haiti’s recovery efforts. This would allow Haitians with approved family-based visa petitions to come to the United States while they await their visas.

Tragically, over 200,000 Haitians were killed and millions more were affected by the catastrophic 7.0 magnitude earthquake that struck Haiti on January 12, 2010. The devastation left Haiti’s infrastructure severely compromised and its citizens vulnerable. Over four years later, approximately 150,000 Haitians still live under deplorable conditions in the country’s infamous tent camps, and tens of thousands have had no other alternative but to live in unsafe, makeshift shelters that comprise the informal settlements around Port-au-Prince. In addition, while the United Nations (UN) has played an important role in the post-earthquake recovery effort, it has failed to adequately address and take responsibility for a deadly cholera outbreak that has killed more than 8,500 Haitians and sickened more than 700,000 since October of 2010.

Furthermore, many media reports have documented what the U.S. Coast Guard knows all too well. Desperate Haitians are increasingly abandoned and dying at sea as they resort to smugglers to cross perilous routes in search of a better life, including the notoriously treacherous 80-mile-wide Mona Passage strait toward Puerto Rico. According to Captain Mark Fedor, Chief of Enforcement of the U.S. Coast Guard’s Seventh District in Miami, “[the smugglers] want to get the run done and collect their money…there’s probably a lot of death we don’t know about.”

As of November 1, 2013, DHS had approved family-based immigrant visa petitions for 109,489. However, due to arbitrary per country limits, they unconscionably remain on waiting lists of up to more than 12 years in Haiti. Your administration can take immediate steps to save and improve lives by allowing Haitians who have already been approved to join their families in the United States.

The Cuban Family Reunification Parole Program, which was created by DHS in 2007 and subsequently renewed by your administration, has successfully paroled tens of thousands of approved Cuban participants into the United States. Creating a Haitian Family Reunification Parole Program would not only save lives and reunite families, but empower individuals to actively assist in Haiti’s recovery. Haitians remit about $2 billion annually, mostly from the diaspora in the United States, and Haitian parolees would be able to obtain work permits and send much-needed remittances back to Haiti.

The creation of a Haitian Family Reunification Parole Program is supported by 100 Members of Congress from both parties, 10 major editorial boards in at least 17 editorials, the New York and Philadelphia city councils, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, American Bar Association, Miami-Dade County Commission, Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, and thousands of petitioners.

Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter. The people of Haiti are incredibly resilient and eager to take control of their future. We therefore urge you to put an end to the indefinite waiting lists as soon as possible through the creation of a Haitian Family Reunification Parole Program.
Sincerely,

Reps. Alcee L. Hastings, Mario Diaz-Balart, John Conyers, Jr., Charles B. Rangel, George Miller, John Lewis, Frank Pallone, Jr., Elliot L. Engel, Jim McDermott, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, James P. Moran, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Maxine Waters, Jerrold Nadler, Sanford D. Bishop, Jr., Corrine Brown, Luis V. Gutiérrez, Eddie Bernice Johnson, Lucille Roybal-Allard, Bobby L. Rush, Bennie G. Thompson, Chaka Fattah, Sheila Jackson Lee, Zoe Lofgren, Earl Blumenauer, Donna M. Christensen, Danny K. Davis, James P. McGovern, Gregory W. Meeks, John F. Tierney, Barbara Lee, Michael E. Capuano, Janice D. Schakowsky, Wm. Lacy Clay, Michael M. Honda, Raúl M. Grijalva, David Scott, Emanuel Cleaver, Al Green, Gwen Moore, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Albio Sires, Kathy Castor, Yvette D. Clarke, Steve Cohen, Henry C. “Hank” Johnson, Jr., Peter Welch, André Carson, Theodore E. Deutch, Karen Bass, William R. Keating, Cedric L. Richmond, Frederica S. Wilson, Donald M. Payne, Jr., Matt Cartwright, Lois Frankel, Joe Garcia, Robin L. Kelly, Mark Pocan, Marc A. Veasey, Elijah E. Cummings, José E. Serrano, and Donna F. Edwards
Cc:

The Honorable Jeh Johnson
Secretary, U.S. Department of Homeland Security
The Honorable John Kerry
Secretary, U.S. Department of State
Congressman Alcee L. Hastings serves as Senior Member of the House Rules Committee, Ranking Democratic Member of the U.S. Helsinki Commission, and Co-Chairman of the Florida Delegation.

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