Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

Diaspora Haitian Family Reunification Letter to President Obama

HFR Signees

August 15, 2014

President Barack Obama, The White House

Dear Mr. President:

We write as Haitian-American diaspora leaders and organizations to urge you to instruct the Department of Homeland Security to create a Haitian Family Reunification Parole Program (HFRPP) now to save lives and speed Haiti’s recovery.  We believe this needed and easy-to-implement humanitarian and recovery measure would be an excellent way to fulfill your State of the Union pledge to act administratively when appropriate.

DHS as of November 1, 2013 had approved family-based immigrant visa petitions for 109,489 Haitians who remain on wait lists of up to more than 12 years in Haiti, where many may have died and all are at risk given cholera and other conditions.  Since Haiti’s January 2010 earthquake, a broad array of support has urged you to create an HFRPP, like the ongoing Cuban FRPP created administratively by DHS in 2007 under which tens of thousands of approved Cuban beneficiaries have been paroled into the United States.

Supporters include 100 congresspersons of both parties, 10 major editorial boards in at least 17 editorials, the Miami-Dade County Commission, the New York and Philadelphia city councils, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, American Bar Association, Congressional Black Caucus, NAACP, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, 6,000 petitioners, etc.

Two new, exacerbating factors compel this letter now.  Many mainstream news reports document what the U.S. Coast Guard knows and confirms all too well: desperate Haitian migrants are dying at sea in ever-increasing numbers as smugglers cause them to brave perilous routes, including the notoriously treacherous 80-mile-wide Mona Passage strait toward Puerto Rico, often abandoning them to die.  The smugglers “are ruthless,” Chief of Enforcement Captain Mark Fedor of the Coast Guard’s Seventh District in Miami recently told the Wall Street Journal:  “They want to get the run done and collect their money… there’s probably a lot of death we don’t know about.”

Secondly, the inability of Congress to pass immigration legislation makes this long-urged and imperative action clearly appropriate.

It makes no sense for Haitians long since approved by DHS to join their families in the United States to remain on years-long wait lists in Haiti.

Creating a Haitian FRPP would save lives: the 109,000 Haitians at risk in our hemisphere’s poorest nation — now enduring an unchecked cholera epidemic which has killed thousands and sickened hundreds of thousands — would be safer with their petitioning U.S. family members in our communities.

Reuniting our families would also speed Haiti’s recovery: after paying the U.S. Treasury significant fees applying for work permits, employed parolees would begin and continue into the indefinite future sending to loved ones in Haiti crucially-needed remittances, which as you know are the most important form of personal support; Haitians remit about $2 billion annually, mostly from the diaspora in the United States.

Both Cubans and Haitians risk their lives in Caribbean waters, and Haiti’s recovery is in our national and border security interests given its proximity to our shores and our nation’s significant Haitian American population.  Right in terms of foreign policy, humanity and fairness, an HFRPP would also relieve at least some of the despair which leads people to put their lives into the hands of smugglers.  Nor would anyone get a “green card” any sooner – there would be no “line jumping” – but they could wait for them in safety, like their Cuban counterparts, not in still-suffering Haiti.

Mr. President, for the excellent reasons urged in broad and bipartisan fashion since the 2010 earthquake, underscored by the increasing loss of life at sea and your appropriate pledge to act administratively if necessary given congressional inaction, we strongly and most respectfully urge you to instruct DHS to save lives and help Haiti recover by finally now creating a Haitian FRPP.

Very sincerely yours,

National Haitian American Elected Officials Network (NHAEON), Mayor Joseph Makhandal Champagne Jr., Chairman

National Organization for the Advancement of Haitians (NOAH), Washington, D.C., Dr. Joseph Baptiste, Chairman and former President, The Haitian Diaspora Federation (HDF)

1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, Monica Russo, Executive Vice President, Miami Lakes, FL

Center for Haitian Studies, Health, and Human Services (CHS), Miami, FL, Dr. Larry Pierre, M.D., M.P.H., Executive Director

The Haitian Diaspora Federation (HDF), Toms River, NJ, Katleen Felix, Interim President

Haitian-American Chamber of Commerce of Florida, North Miami Beach, FL, Raoul Siclait, Treasurer, on behalf of the Board of Directors

National Association of Haitian Professionals (NAHP), Hillside, NJ, Serge Renaud, Chairperson

Haitian American Professionals Coalition (HAPC), South Florida (comprising the Haitian Lawyers Association, Haitian American Nurses Association, Association of Haitian Educators of Dade, Haitian American Chamber of Commerce of Florida, Caribbean-American Visual Cultural Preservation, Harmony of the Divine Light, and Community Access Center), Sevigne Castor, MBA, BEE, BE, Chairperson

Haitian Congress to Fortify Haiti, Evanston, IL, Marie Lynn Toussaint, Chair

Association of Haitian Women, Inc. (AFAB), Boston, MA, Carline Desire, Executive Director

Haitian Lawyers Association, South Florida, Fritznie Jarbath, Esq., President

Haitian American Lawyers Association of New York, Emmanuel Depas, Esq., President

Haitian American Lawyers Association of New Jersey, Wilson Antoine, Esq., President

Haitian American Leadership Council (HALEC), Freehold, New Jersey, Emmanuel Coffy, Esq., Chairman

Diaspora Community Services, Brooklyn, New York, Carine Jocelyn, Executive Director

Fanm Ayisyen nan Miyami/Haitian Women of Miami, Inc. (FANM), Marleine Bastien, Executive Director

Haiti Renewal Alliance, Washington, D.C., Firmin Backer, President

Americans for Immigrant Justice (AIJ), Cheryl Little, Executive Director

Haitian American Leadership Coalition, Jacques Despinosse, Chairperson and former Councilman, City of North Miami, FL

Irish International Immigrant Center (IIIC), Boston, MA

Haiti Environmental Rescue Organization (HERO), Chicago, IL, Serge Fontaine, Founder and President

Haitians Unified for Development and Education (HUDE), Jersey City, N.J., France Casseus, Chair/Executive Director

Catholic Charities Legal Services of the Archdiocese of Miami (CCLS), Randolph P. McGrorty, Executive Director

International Coalition for Haiti, Inc., East Orange, N.J., Vanessa B. Vincent, FRM, Board Chairman and G. Charles Bouchereau, Ph.D, Program Director

Haitian American Grassroots Coalition, South Florida, Jean Robert Lafortune, Chairperson

Somerville Haitian Coalition, Somerville, MA, Franklin Dalembert, Director

Sant La, Haitian Neighborhood Center, Inc., Miami, FL Gepsie M. Metellus, Executive Director

Association of Exchange and Development of Activities and Partnership (AEDAP), Miami, FL, Flore Lindor Latortue, Executive Director

Friends of Haiti 2010, Brooklyn, N.Y., Edens Debas, Secretary General

Unique Coalition of Minority Businesses of South Dade, Inc. (UCOMB), Jacques R. Laroche, President and former FL field ambassador for President Obama’s re-election

Haiti Solidarity Network of the North East (HSNNE), Jersey City, NJ

Federation des Associations Regionales Haitiennes de la Diaspora (Haitian Regional Associations Federation of the Diaspora, FAREHD), Hollywood, FL, Kenol Aris, MS, President

Haitian Empowerment Foundation, Inc. (HEF), Lake Worth, FL, Ralph Cheriza, President and CEO

Harvard Haitian Alliance, Cambridge, MA, Ketsia Saint-Armand, President; Shunella Lumas, Co-President; Josie François, Secretary; Stephanie Charles, Public Service Chair; Chelsea Cherenfant, Outreach Chair; Sinclaire Hamilton, Publicity Chair

Center for Self-Sufficiency, Miami, FL, Edeline B. Mondestin, RN, BSN, Executive Director

Operation S O S, Chicago, IL, Colette M. Jeffries, Executive Director

Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI), Brooklyn, NY, Opal Tometi, Executive Director

United Networks in Collective Solidarity (UNICSO), Miami, FL, Marcus Sansaricq, President

Haitian Hometown Associations Resource Group (HHTARG), Freeport, NY, Maybelle Jadotte, Acting Executive Director

Sosyete Koukouy, Miami, FL, Jean-Marie Denis (“Jan Mapou”), President

Haitian Cultural Association, Boston University, Boston, MA, Shaita Picard, President

Alternative Chance/Chans Altenativ, New York, NY, Michelle Karshan, Executive Director

Greater Boston Nazarene Compassionate Center, Inc., Boston, MA, Rev. Pierre-Louis Zephir, Executive Director

Myrtha Desulme, Assistant Vice-President for Advocacy and Public Policy, The Haitian Diaspora Federation (HDF) and President, Haiti-Jamaica Society

Father Reginald Jean-Mary, Pastor, Notre Dame D’Haiti Catholic Church, Miami, FL

Auxiliary Bishop Guy Sansaricq, Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn, N.Y

Rev. Mullery Jean-Pierre, Pastor, Beraca Baptist Church, Brooklyn, N.Y.

Rev. Dieufort Jean Fleurissaint, Executive Pastor, Voice of the Gospel Tabernacle Church, Mattapan, MA and Strategy Team Member, Greater Boston Interfaith Organization, Boston, MA

Venerable Canon J. Fritz Bazin, D. Min, Episcopal Diocese of Southeast Florida

Pastor Raphael Germain, Director, Missionary Association of Haitian Christians, Inc. (MAHC), Boston, MA

Judge Lionel Jean Baptiste, Chicago, Illinois

Edwidge Danticat, author

Mayor Joseph Makhandal Champagne Jr., Borough of South Toms River, New Jersey and Chairman, National Haitian American Elected Officials Network (NHAEON)

State Senator Linda Dorcena Forry, Massachusetts Legislature, Commonwealth of Massachusetts (1st Suffolk District)

Council Member Mathieu Eugene, New York City Council, District 40, New York, N.Y.

Commissioner Jean Monestime, Miami-Dade County Board of County Commissioners (District 2)

State Representative Daphne D. Campbell, Florida House of Representatives (District 108), State of Florida

Acting Mayor Philippe Bien-Aime, City of North Miami, FL

Vice-Mayor and Councilwoman Marie Erlande Steril, City of North Miami, FL

City Councilman Dabouze Antoine, Forest Park, GA

West Ward Council Member Charnette Frederic, MHA, LNHA, Irvington, New Jersey

Vice President Archange Antoine, Board of Education, Roselle Public Schools, Roselle, New Jersey

Andre Pierre, Esq., Adjunct Professor, Barry University, Miami Shores, and former Mayor, City of North Miami, FL

Philippe Derose, former Mayor, City of El Portal, FL and Councilman, City of North Miami Beach, FL

Monsignor Jean Pierre, St. James Catholic Church, North Miami, FL

Patrick Richard, PhD; Health Economist; Assistant Professor and Professional Lecturer in Health Economics, George Washington University

Ludovic Comeau Jr, Ph.D., Economist and Associate Professor, DePaul University, Chicago; Professor and Trustee, Institute of Science, Technology and Advanced Studies of Haiti (ISTEAH); President, Group for Reflection and Action for a New Haiti (GRAHN)-USA; Vice-President, GRAHN-World

Kysseline Jean-Mary Cherestal, Esq., International Development, Washington, D.C.

Luckner Bayas, PE, Haitian Diaspora Working Group

Lucie Tondreau, former Mayor, City of North Miami, FL

Raynald Louis, CEO/GM, Radio Kajou (“The #1 Internet Radio Serving the Haitian Diaspora”), South Florida

Sergo Graham, Co-Host – Voices & Perspectives, Radio Kajou, South Florida

Rico Dupuy, radio host and Director, Radio Soleil, New York City

 

Cc: Secretary Jeh Johnson, Department of Homeland Security

Deputy Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, Department of Homeland Security

Leon Rodriguez, Director, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services

Secretary John Kerry, Department of State

 

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