Immigration is a major issue among Haitian. It is estimated that over 4 million Haitians are currently living outside of Haiti
Following closely in the footsteps of the Dominican Republic, the Bahamas recently issued a new immigration policy that would make criminals of hundreds of Haitians who live and work in their country. As a result of this decision, activists have mobilized and joined voices in protest of the new regime.
The Bahamian government followed up their new ruling by performing immigration raids throughout the New Providence area, resulting in the apprehension of over 70 people, a number which is said to include an un-told amount of children. This news has sparked great controversy, seeing as some of these persons were in the process of being naturalized, and some of the children were born in the country, though their parents were illegal residents.
As of early next year, scores of Haitians, waiting to be reunited with their families who reside legally in the United States will be given the opportunity to do so through the scheduled Haitian Family Reunification program being instituted by the Department of Homeland Security. The aim of the program is to hasten the migration of qualified Haitians whose petitions have been granted, but who have been in limbo for years.
According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, those eligible will be able to enter the U.S. and reside for about two years before the priority dates for their immigrant visas become current. It was made possible under a legal authority modeled after the 2007 Cuban Family Reunification Parole program. It gives authority to the Secretary of Homeland Security to bring these displaced individuals into the U.S., on a per-case basis, for humanitarian or socially beneficial reasons.
Around the time Haitian President Aristide returned to Haiti from exile in the U.S. violent opposition forces forced Haitians to flee the country to sanctuary in the U.S. To deal with the migration, the U.S. formed Operation Sea Signal, using its U.S. Coast Guard and Navy units to rescue migrants bobbing in the ocean and transport them to Guantanamo Bay Naval Station.
Army Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Poll, a young but already seasoned soldier, worked with the Joint Task Force 160 (JTF), responsible for the welfare of over 50,000 migrants. The resettlement camp operated from August 1994 up until February 1996.
Haitian Family Reunification Program begins in 2015. At the beginning of 2015 the Department of Homeland Security (DOHS) will begin the long-awaited Haitian Family Reunification Parole (HFRP) Program. It has been designed for designated, qualified Haitian relatives of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents living in the U.S. as well.
The HFRP Program is an expedited process that will permit those who have petitioned for a family-based visa and been approved to come to the U.S. But a caveat applies: their priority dates must not exceed two years to receive the visas. As of now, under immigration rules an annual cap of 100,000 Haitians admitted to the U.S. is applied, so there are still many with approved petitions that are languishing on waiting lists that extend to over 12 years.
The Obama administration has authorized U.S. Department of Homeland Security to start the Haitian Family Reunification Parole (HFRP) Program to fast-track reunification of qualified Haitian relatives of U.S. citizens. About 100,000 Haitians have applied for U.S. visas, but the HFRP Program restricts issuance to those with only a two-year wait. Upon arriving in the U.S. immigrants will qualify for a work permit, while waiting for a green card.
Advocates for immigrants have received news of HFRP Program's future implementation with pleasure, but as Executive Director of Americans for Immigrant Justice, Cheryl Little, commented she had hoped ". . . it wouldn't be as restrictive . . . in terms of which Haitians . . . are eligible to join their loved ones here, but . . . it's going to benefit a number of Haitian families, who have been waiting for this since the earthquake."
According to U.S. anthropology professor Bertin Louis, the new policy on immigration that's to be effected by the Government of Bahamas from November 1. 2014, is clearly 'xenophobic' because it does not give any opportunity to claim asylum. Under the new immigration laws, the Government of The Bahamas will no longer accept any application of work visas from persons living in Bahamas illegally. In the middle of September, Foreign Affairs and Immigration Minister Frederick Mitchell has said that persons without any legal status will not be permitted to work in Bahamas anymore and those intending to do so will be will be arrested, charged and deported. Any foreigner living in the Bahamas must have a valid passport of own home country. The children of the immigrants (with population around 370,000), if can confirm their legal status of residence, will be allowed to live, attend schools, and work in the islands.
Bahamian authorities are about to take a zero tolerance stance with their new immigration restrictions. Following a string of arrests spanning from August 19, 2014 to as recently as September 17, the government of the Bahamas is considering changes that will greatly impact the urge many Haitians have to flee to the more prosperous country.
The numbers are uncertain, but it was estimated in 2009 that there were about 50,000 illegal Haitian settlers in the Bahamas. Attempting the address that, the Bahamian Government may adapt measures that will make it harder for migrant workers to settle there. One new rule, which went into immediate effect, was that work permits will no longer be issued to those with an illegal status in the country. An illegal who applies for one will also be arrested and deported. Other measures being considered are a permanent ban on the bestowing of legal status to anyone who has ever been deported from the country and additional fees for any Haitians seeking permits to work in the Bahamas. They may also be required to make an in-person application at the Bahamas Embassy in Haiti. The possible changes have been presented to the Haitian ambassador in the Bahamas, and will be discussed with other Haitian officials.
Haitian Nationals Free to Apply for Permanent Residency in Quebec
Quebec, Canada has received news from the federal government suspension of deportation back to Haiti of its nationals is no longer in effect. Minister of Immigration, Diversity, and Inclusion (MIDI), Kathleen Weil, spoke of the steps to be implemented in Quebec to aid Haitian nationals, who desire to make an application for permanent residence in Canada, predicated on humanitarian principles. The majority of Haitian nationals have chosen Quebec as their home, and it is the wish of Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) to facilitate the application process. CIC will collaborate with MIDI to give social service organizations, contracted by MIDI, the funding to advocate for Haitian immigrants going through the application process. Haitians, who are eligible to apply for permanent residency, will be given until June 2015 to file their applications.
A huge number of illegal immigrants have been, for a long time, entering the US through the Mexican border. The US immigration agencies have been having a hard time trying to deal with this, and now Haiti citizens have begun swarming into the US through Puerto Rico.
The number of Haitians entering the US through Puerto Rico has been increasing significantly since 2011. Then the number of Haitians that made it to the US via Dominican Republic through to Puerto Rico was 12, and as of last year the number had shot up to 1,760, according to the US Coast Guard statistics.
Daphne Campbell, a Florida politician, saw much support for her recent call to international businesses and tourists to boycott the Bahamas until they have repealed their new, highly controversial law that aims, as she describes it, to discriminate against Haitian children. Her latest such supporter is president of the Haitian Bahamian community Jetta Baptiste, who admitted to being in agreement with the proposed boycott one thousand percent.
While voicing her support for the boycott and the one-week ultimatum issued by the politician, Baptiste also spoke about the frustration of the community which is once again being cruelly handled by the Bahamas, as well as others of Haiti's neighbors. Baptiste argues that Haitians living in the Bahamas are being tugged into the political game of the government of the Bahamas, in which illegal migration is a huge topic. She puts forward that Florida will not long be the only State that will join in the boycott as Campbell, a Democratic Member of the House of Representatives for Florida, has written to the U.S. government about the situation, and she also has the backing of elected Cuban officials who have appealed to Florida's Governor Rick Scott and President Barack Obama.
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