After Haiti Quake, Immigration Debate Rumbles

Advocates want US to soften its stance
By Harry Kimball,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 25, 2010 10:07 AM CST
After Haiti Quake, Immigration Debate Rumbles
US military aid workers and a woman in the Cite Soleil neighborhood in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, yesterday.   (AP Photo)

The disastrous situation in Haiti has sparked calls for the US to soften its stance on Haitian immigration, particularly in respect to severely injured children and those with family members here. Though the US will allow Haitians already in the country illegally to stay for 18 months and will fast-track pending adoptions, it has balked at speeding up the visa process for relatives of Haitian Americans. “Typical bureaucratic crap that needs to be cut through,” said Florida Senator Bill Nelson.

Nelson is interested in airlifting seriously injured children to the States for treatment, the Washington Post notes, but others want more. Advocates are particularly focused on some 19,000 Haitians with relatives in the US who had applied for family visas before the disaster, and 55,000 who were approved but have not been allowed to enter the country because of annual quotas set by Congress. And it’s only a matter of time before would-be emigrants take matters into their own hands. “You need a boat, a captain, money. Nobody has that,” a refugee advocate says. “But in 2 weeks, 4 weeks, 6 weeks, they will.” (Read more Haiti earthquake stories.)

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