The Republic of Haiti is the poorest country in the Western hemisphere, with four-fifths of its population in abject poverty and three-fifths of the population unemployed or under-employed.
Early next year, many Haitian citizens will finally enjoy a benefit bestowed to many individuals, slated to leave the country to join their family in the United States. Many of these families previously anticipated waiting many years for a visa number to become available to them in order to immigrate. Now, however, thanks to a new Haitian Family Reunification Paroleprogram, this long wait will be able to be by-passed.
The number of Haitians with approved visas, waiting for their date to enter, are well over 100,000. Most of these individuals remain in Haiti, while they wait years for a visa number to become available to them. In 2013, only 10,000 visa numbers were approved from Haiti with not much of a better increase for 2014. The new Haitian Family Reunification Parole will speed up the priority dates for many individuals with approved visas, cutting down their wait time by two years.
The Department of Homeland Security has approved a broad benefit that will allow United States citizens and lawful permanent residents to apply for their relatives in Haiti through what is known as a “parole” request. Normally a parole request is granted only for “humanitarian reasons” or for a “significant public benefit”. This new Haitian Family Reunification Parole program will allow these individuals to be paroled to enter the United States lawfully and remain here for an indefinite period of time. They will be afforded work authorization and will have many other benefits, however, the parole does not grant lawful permanent residency.
Once the Haitian citizen is paroled into the United States, they would have the ability to change their immigration status to that of a lawful permanent resident if they had a valid family based petition. This type of petition could be perfected by marriage to a United States citizen, or a petition by a parent or child over 21, who is a United States citizen. The chance to enter the United States lawfully opens many doors for possible future immigration benefits.
This new Haitian Family Reunification Parole program follows the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) that President Obama granted to Haitian nationals residing in the United States following the devastating earthquake in Haiti that took place in January 2010. This new Haitian Family Reunification Parole program highlights the President’s continued effort to afford humanitarian relief to the country, so near our shores.
Of course, Republican senators have already began voicing their criticism of the President’s decision to enact the new Haitian Family Reunification Parole program. However, the President has, again, shown the American public that he is not afraid to use the authority he has to make a decision that he feels is important, not only for the purpose of family reunification, but as a humanitarian gesture for a citizens of a country in dire need.