More Relief for Haitians?

March 26, 2010 § Leave a comment

Shortly after the earthquake that devastated much of Port-au-Prince,  DHS suspended deportations of Haitians and extended temporary protected status (TPS) to tens of thousands of Haitians already in the United States.

TPS is granted by DHS to individuals already in the U.S. who are nationals of countries subject to environmental disaster, armed conflict or other extraordinary and temporary conditions.

Beneficiaries are granted employment authorization and a stay of removal while in TPS status. DHS also put into place new procedures to accommodate the thousands of Haitian orphans waiting to finalize their adoptions.

And, just recently, 200 critically injured children were given humanitarian visas to come for medical treatment.

USCIS also has stated that it would take additional steps to assist Haitian foreign nationals during the crisis.

When appropriate, the government would work to issue favorable applications for change or extension of visas and authorize Haitian students’ requests for off-campus employment and work permits, among other measures.

But, what about the immediate relatives of Haitian U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents who are still in Haiti? There are thousands of Haitians who could be eligible for immediate relief as close relatives of U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents.

The majority of these close family members eventually will be allowed to obtain green cards and immigrate to the United States but many face years of waiting due to visa backlogs.

One option discussed during the weeks immediately after the catastrophe is the acceleration of the cases already approved.

An alternative could include offering humanitarian “parole” to those who have a future basis to become lawful permanent residents.  These individuals could live and work in the US while they wait here for their visas to become available, rather than in Haiti.

In addition, they could send money back to Haiti, an important source of foreign remittances and aid.  Such an option would help alleviate the crisis in Haiti.

Although much aid has been sent to Haiti from a myriad of countries and individuals, numerous obstacles impede delivering it.  Moreover, there continues to be concern that if the situation in Haiti destabilizes further, a mass exodus will occur.

Federal officials repeatedly have stated that they want to prevent desperate Haitians from risking the dangerous journey to the United States on small boats bound to Florida.

DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano cautioned that Haitians who arrived to the U.S. after January 12, 2010 will not be eligible for TPS and will be repatriated to Haiti.

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