43. URGING PAROLE FOR ALL HAITIAN BENEFICIARIES OF APPROVED IMMIGRANT VISA PETITIONS AND EXPEDITED CONSIDERATION AND APPROVAL OF ALL PENDING IMMIGRANT VISA PETITIONS
The U.S. should welcome Haitians in
THE UNITED STATES has reacted swiftly and generously to Haiti's calamity, both with a colossal charitable response from individuals, enterprises and organizations and with a substantial commitment of troops, money, medical help and high-level attention from the government. But the Obama administration can and should do more, and quickly, to ease the vast burden of relief and rebuilding and to channel cash to Haitian families in dire need.
Specifically -- and at a minimum -- it could accomplish those goals by allowing Haitians with relatives in the United States to join their families here as quickly as practicable. Instead, it has imposed what amounts to a freeze in issuing visas to Haitians, thereby keeping them bottled up in one of the world's most destitute and devastated places. This is counterproductive in the extreme and will only increase the risk of boat people heading toward American shores.
The U.S. government already has approved the visa petitions of some 55,000 Haitians whose family members are U.S. citizens or permanent residents, but they face long waits to enter the country because of annual limits set by Congress. For Haitians, as for other nationalities, the waiting list is daunting. The adult children of U.S. citizens must wait six years to immigrate if they're single and nine years if they're married; siblings of citizens face an 11-year wait; even for spouses and minor children of legal permanent residents who hold green cards, the wait is about four years.
Most Haitians on these waiting lists, plus 19,000 who have applications in the pipeline, are going to wind up in the United States eventually. Speeding their resettlement here -- perhaps in monthly airlifts of 5,000 or 10,000 -- would help in critical ways. First, it would reduce the overwhelming numbers of destitute Haitians who will need to be housed, fed and cared for, in many cases by U.S. and international groups operating in Port-au-Prince and elsewhere. Second, it would provide an orderly procedure to relieve the pressure building in a country where almost no one currently has a means of exit. Keeping people bottled up in a place as wrecked as Haiti is a sure-fire way to make desperate people more desperate; it raises the risk of violence, instability and chaotic exodus. Third, it would increase the pool of Haitians working in the United States who, even before the quake, provided an estimated one-third of Haiti's gross domestic product by sending cash remittances to their families.
These cash transfers in particular are a crucial lifeline for millions of Haitians. There's no more efficient way to get money into the pockets of Haitians who now lack work, shelter and other basic provisions. It's been estimated that a Haitian working in the United States can support as many as 10 relatives at home, and many do.
The administration can speed the entry of Haitians -- it needs no congressional approval -- and there's ample precedent for taking such measures to admit people facing unusual hardship. In the 1960s and again in the Mariel boatlift of 1980, the United States admitted a total of more than 350,000 Cubans fleeting Fidel Castro's regime. It resettled tens of thousands of refugees following the war in Vietnam and thousands of Kosovar Albanians during the Balkan wars. And with a half-million Haitians already in the United States -- not only in South Florida but also in New York, Boston and elsewhere -- a receiving community is in place that could help acclimate the new immigrants. No doubt, an influx of Haitians would put a burden on schools and other local services, but it is a burden the United States has shouldered in the past in the face of emergency and extreme hardship. And America should not bear the burden alone. Canada, France and other nations with historic and cultural ties to Haiti should follow suit.
The administration has allowed undocumented Haitians already in this country to stay for 18 months and apply for work permits, and it brought some orphans and badly injured victims of the quake to American shores. But it has balked at doing more, even for some Haitians with close ties to American citizens. Having declared that the extraordinary suffering in Haiti demands an extraordinary American response, the Obama administration now must fashion policies that fit that principle. And the time to do so is now.
U.S. must lead in Haiti's recovery
Miami Herald, March 22, 2010
OUR OPINION: Government can do more to aid stricken country
As Haiti faces the immense task of recovery, no foreign country will play a more important role in shaping the nation's future than the United States. The U.S. reaction has been generous, and the Obama administration has made a major contribution to Haiti's relief, but it needs to do more.
• Security. U.S. forces have been a key factor in helping Haiti to maintain security during a traumatic period. But even as these efforts help Haiti to get back on its feet, U.S. soldiers are starting to pull out of the country. This sends the wrong signal at the wrong time.
Instead of declaring mission accomplished, the Pentagon should be raising the profile of Army soldiers and Marines in Haiti to guarantee security and reinforce the U.S. commitment.
The 9,000-strong U.N. force known by the acronym MINUSTAH will remain responsible for peacekeeping. But nothing says security to the Haitian people as surely as the sight of U.S. forces, whose distinctive uniforms are well-recognized in the cities and rural areas.
• Immigration. Within days of the January 12 earthquake, the federal government bestowed Temporary Protected Status on Haitian immigrants already here. This was a welcome step, but here, too, there's room for improvement.
The government has approved the visa petitions of 55,000 Haitians whose family members legally reside in this country, but the wait to enter can take years due to limits set by Congress. However, the administration does not need congressional approval to admit these Haitians under hardship exceptions.
This move would remove thousands from Haiti's devastation and add to the force of the diaspora, Haitians living abroad. The money transfers by Haitians living abroad, including a large community in South Florda, already constitute the biggest source of cash infusions into the Haitian economy.
There is no valid argument for failing to move quickly on this front.
• Trade. Mr. Obama should get behind efforts to grant Haiti more generous trade preferences.
Ultimately, the solution to Haiti's economic woes is the creation of jobs, and the textile industry offers the best avenue for success. In the 1990s, more than 100,000 Haitians were employed in the textile industry. That workforce had been reduced to between 10,000 and 20,000 by the beginning of this year as the industry struggled for revival.
U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk has proposed a ``Plus 1 for Haiti'' initiative that would encourage U.S. retailers to import 1 percent of their apparel from Haiti, but so far it has not been implemented. Mr. Obama has to help Mr. Kirk push this effort through Congress.
More important, the president should get behind trade legislation co-sponsored by Florida Sen. Bill Nelson extending the preferential treatment for textiles that Haiti receives under current law. According to Sen. Nelson, it would allow Haiti to bring in textiles from around the world to make garments for the U.S. market. Nothing could do more to attract foreign investors and help Haiti's garment industry come back to life.
The administration must lead the global effort to promote Haiti's recovery. It should encourage international lending agencies to cancel Haiti's debt, but moving swiftly in those areas where the government can act unilaterally will send a message to the rest of the world that this country is serious about its commitment to the people of Haiti.
What Haiti needs: A Haitian diaspora
The outpouring of pledges to "rebuild" Haiti has spurred debate about how much aid will be needed, for how long and who could administer such a large program efficiently. In 2008, the last year for which statistics are available, Haiti received more than $900 million in all forms of aid, and many analysts suggest that total must be doubled if "recovery" is to happen. But it is doubtful whether such additional commitments will be made -- and kept -- as Haiti moves off the front pages.
"Rebuilding" and "recovery" would merely take Haiti, this hemisphere's poorest country, back to where it stood before the Jan. 12 earthquake. Surely, our goal is to do better. We must increase aid but also allow Haitians to help themselves, and there is no way they can do that sitting in a devastated nation. A substantial number of Haitians must be allowed to move to richer countries -- including ours.
Haiti has approximately 9 million citizens, and 1 million to 2 million Haitians live outside their country. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, half a million people born in Haiti live in the United States, and estimates put several hundred thousand in Canada and as many as 100,000 in France. Those migrants send home $1.9 billion in remittances -- double the official aid flows and equal to 30 percent of Haiti's gross domestic product.
These sums are greatly exceeded by some of Haiti's neighbors. The 1.3 million Dominicans living in the United States send home $3 billion in remittances, an amount 20 times as much as official aid flows. A million Hondurans living abroad send home $2.7 billion, providing eight times the global foreign aid Honduras receives. The 1.5 million Salvadorans living here send home $3.8 billion, 15 times official aid flows.
A larger Haitian diaspora would be a far better base for the country's economic future than aid pledges that may or may not be met. If several hundred thousand more Haitians were able to migrate, those Dominican, Honduran or Salvadoran numbers suggest that remittances to Haiti would give its economy a huge and continuing jolt.
This would require Canada, France and the United States -- the First World countries with the largest Haitian diaspora communities -- to adopt a different and more liberal immigration policy toward Haiti. Canada has already stepped up, expediting immigration applications from Haitians with family members living there. Canada's immigration minister noted that "we anticipate there will be a number of new applications, which we will treat on a priority basis."
But France and the United States have so far agreed only to no longer send Haitians back to Haiti. Washington has granted "temporary protected status," or TPS, meaning that deportation of Haitians already in the United States is stayed for 18 months. In fact, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has suggested that Haitians must stay where they are despite conditions on the island, saying in a Jan. 15 statement: "At this moment of tragedy in Haiti it is tempting for people suffering in the aftermath of the earthquake to seek refuge elsewhere. But attempting to leave Haiti now will only bring more hardship to the Haitian people and nation."
The secretary went on: "The Haitians are resilient and determined and their role in addressing this crisis in their homeland will be essential to Haiti's future. It is important to note that TPS will apply only to those individuals who were in the United States as of January 12, 2010. Those who attempt to travel to the United States after January 12, 2010 will not be eligible for TPS and will be repatriated. The Department of Homeland Security continues to extend sympathy to our Haitian neighbors and support the worldwide relief effort underway in every way we can."
Well, not every way we can -- for one of the best ways to help Haiti is to allow some Haitians to move abroad. It is ridiculous to argue that leaving Haiti in the coming year or two "will only bring more hardship to the Haitian people and nation." Migration would mean that Haiti needs to provide fewer hospital beds, schools, meals and jobs -- and migrants' remittances will be key to Haiti's economic recovery for decades to come.
President Obama said that the disaster in Haiti "is one of those moments that calls out for American leadership." He should be asking Congress not only to provide aid funds but also to allow a significant increase in the number of Haitians legally admitted to the United States -- to several times the roughly 25,000 per year in the past decade. Canada and France should do the same. There are no panaceas for Haiti's recovery, but any sensible approach must include migration from the island. If the United States is committed to giving Haiti hope for the future, enlarging the Haitian diaspora is a surefire way to succeed.
The writer, a senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, was assistant secretary of state for inter-American affairs in the Reagan administration and a deputy national security adviser to President George W. Bush.
Haiti -- a beautiful country, people and culture -- was no stranger to tragedy, even before the earthquake of 2010. In the years since I left Haiti in 1994, prolonged episodes of political strife have been coupled with eight natural disasters, with massive property damage and loss of life.
These political and natural catastrophes pushed tens of thousands of Haitians to escape to the United States by any means -- legal or otherwise. And the United States has long taken extraordinary means -- themselves of dubious legality under international law -- to stem such migration. Not the least among these is the "shout test" -- the U.S. policy to return all Haitian boat migrants without any asylum screening whatsoever, except those who physically or verbally resist the Coast Guard's efforts to return them.
Yet Haiti's history of natural and man-made disasters seem trivial in relation to the devastation of January 12. More than 150,000 are dead. The already devastated Haitian economy suffered untold billions of dollars in damage. Haitians have fled the country under far less dire circumstances. I will never forget the July 4 I spent in Haiti as a U.S. Immigration Officer in 1994 -- when 3247 Haitian boat migrants were interdicted by the Coast Guard in a single day.
Of course, even if aid pours into Haiti and the U.S. Coast Guard does its best to seal the Haitian coast, thousands are still likely to flee the devastation in the coming months.
Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and the Bureau of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) have already made heroic efforts to rush to the assistance of the Haitian people. They authorized temporary protected status (TPS) for the tens of thousands of undocumented Haitians already in the United States. TPS will give these Haitians 18 months of employment authorization and a reprieve from being forcibly returned to their devastated homeland. Secretary Napolitano is exercising her parole authority to bring in Haitian orphans who were in the process of being adopted by U.S. families, as well as medical evacuees. And USCIS Director Alejandro Mayorkas is expediting immigration and naturalization applications from those of Haitian nationality.
While welcome, these actions will not be enough to act as the migration safety valve that Haiti now needs to rise from the rubble. The Obama Administration, Secretary Napolitano and the Congress should take the following steps without delay:
Apply Humanitarian Parole for Haitians with Pending Family Applications
Humanitarian parole is used sparingly to bring someone who is otherwise inadmissible into the United States for a temporary period of time due to a compelling emergency. There are currently more than 50,000 people who have approved family petitions to reunite with family in the U.S. but who are waiting in Haiti for a visa number. Secretary Napolitano should exercise humanitarian parole authority to allow at least those from earthquake-devastated areas of Haiti to wait in the United States with their U.S. family pending the availability of visas.
Create a "Golden Door" Visa
While the U.S. currently offers a diversity lottery for 50,000 people annually from underrepresented countries, the diversity lottery requires a high school education and is closed to residents of Haiti. Congress should enact what Michael Clemens recently called a "Golden Door Visa" to allow Haitians admission to the United States. This policy would help develop the economy of Haiti by creating a strong diaspora of people who could send remittances back to Haiti, while decreasing domestic pressures the Haitian government is facing by so many individuals in dire need. When faced with a massive boat migration from Cuba in 1994, the United States addressed it by launching an effective program -- partly fulfilled through a visa lottery -- issuing 20,000 visas per year to Cubans. A similar strategy should be employed for Haiti. The Departments of State and Homeland Security could activate its existing network of voluntary refugee resettlement agencies throughout the United States -- including the HIAS network -- to assist with the resettlement of impacted Haitians.
Stop the "Shout Test"
The Shout Test currently applied to Haitians by DHS can't pass the laugh test under international law. Adding insult to injury, DHS provides both Cubans and Chinese boat migrants with more meaningful screenings. At a minimum, the Obama Administration should not return Haitian boat migrants without first affording them access to a Creole interpreter. The interpreter should read a statement to returnees informing them that if they have any fear of return they should step forward to request protection through a confidential interview with a competent U.S. official.
We can assume that the majority of Haitian migrants are not fleeing persecution, and therefore are not eligible for asylum or refugee status. However, given the State Department's own human rights reports on Haiti and the fact that more than one in five Haitian asylum applicants in the United States are found to be eligible for asylum, it is unacceptable to presume that Haitian boats are void of asylum-seekers. Such a presumption not only discriminates against Haitians, but sets a bad example for the many other countries which look to the lead of the United States on issues of refugee protection.
International aid is needed, but it is not enough. The migration pressures on Haitians should not be ignored.