Kerry files bill to grant humanitarian parole to 35,000 Haitians

Sen. John KerrySen. John KerrySenator John Kerry (D-MA) introduced legislation today that— if enacted— will allow 35,000 Haitians who have been approved to join family members in the U.S. to come here and work legally until they become eligible for permanent residency. The HELP Act— short for "Haitian Emeregency Life Protection Act of 2011"— would temporarily expand the V nonimmigrant visa category to include Haitians whose petition for a family-sponsored immigrant visa was approved on or before Jan. 12, 2010— the date of last year's catastrophic earthquake.

In a statement issued this afternoon, Sen. Kerry said, “I’ve heard tragic stories from many Haitians in Massachusetts who haven’t seen or heard from their loved ones for months and if bureaucracy is the only thing standing in the way then we need to fix it, end of story. Our legislation creates a commonsense process to reunite families as quickly as possible.”

The legislation comes in the wake of a letter —co-signed by Kerry and six other lawmakers in January— that urged President Barack Obama to parole the eligible Haitians, including some who are children or spouses of permanent US residents. The bill calls for a two-year period of so-called "humanitarian parole" which would begin once the bill is enacted. The bill is co-sponsored Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D- New York).