Immediately after the earthquake the White House granted eligible Haitians already living in the United States the chance to remain and work here legally for 18 months through Temporary Protected Status (TPS). On May 17, 2011, more than 16 months after the first designation, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano announced the extension of TPS for roughly 48,000 Haitian nationals who currently had the designation. The extension was made effective July 23, and allowed Haitian beneficiaries to remain in the United States an additional 18 months—through January 22, 2013.
On September 22, Governor Deval Patrick submitted a letter to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, urging DHS to promptly parole Haitian beneficiaries of approved family-based visa petitions into the United States. He joins a chorus of political leaders across the nation in this call to create a Haitian Family Reunification Parole Program (HFRPP) – which would finally give Haitians the same consideration as Cubans, who were granted a similar parole program under former President George W. Bush in 2007.
“An exercise of parole authority would allow Haitians with an already approved, legal method of entering the United States to be reunited with close family members in the United States while awaiting visa availability,” Gov. Patrick wrote. “Expediting family reunification through safe and orderly channels would bring families together safely without the risk of a dangerous maritime migration, and would allow for greater remittances to be sent to aid Haiti’s recovery.”
There are 105,000 Haitian beneficiaries – of which 16,000 are children and spouses – who are ready to come to the United States. Children and spouses of legal residents have to wait up to four years, while siblings of US citizens may wait up to 11 years. Given the dire circumstances in Haiti after the earthquake, asking these families to wait that long is wrong. What Gov. Patrick, along with scores of leaders and advocates, are asking for is simple: let these earthquake survivors in the United States now, so they can be with their families and work to support others back home.
This argument was recently bolstered by the Center for Global Development, which published a working paper in June “Migration as a Tool for Disaster Recovery: A Case Study on U.S. Policy Options for Post-Earthquake Haiti.” It strongly recommends paroling approved Haitian beneficiaries as a low-cost way to help Haiti recover.
It’s important to note that no congressional act is needed for the administration to expedite the handling of these immigration cases, though congressional quotas created the current backlog of approved visa recipients.
The US has taken a leadership role to aid Haiti’s recovery and promised to do all it could to help. The time has come for the Obama administration to stand firm behind that promise and finally end the double standard against Haitians.