- Faith & Family
Economic times may be worsening in the U.S. but compared to other countries, America is still one of the most desired places to live. Perhaps that is why citizenship applications are soaring in South Florida.
“There is a big push for Haitians to leave their homeland,” said Jean-Robert Lafortune, 55, president of the Haitian-American Grassroots Coalition. “The earthquake is one of the main reasons people are trying to get out of Haiti. They aren’t only trying to come to America but they are also seeking to go to other nations as well. Because of the limited number of people that can actually get visas a lot of people are being forced to stay in Haiti. There has also been a big push by Haitian advocates to encourage the Obama administration to help Haitians obtain visas.”
According to the U.S. Citizens and Immigration Services, about 100,000 naturalizations were conducted in 2008, in comparison to the local annual average of 50,000. The agency’s numbers also show an increase nationwide: 749,087 during the 2011 fiscal year compared to 676,054 in 2010.
“Before I came to America I thought that everyone was rich and honestly I still believe that,” said Jeffy Abbot, 30, who is now undergoing the naturalization process. “I came to America to make a better life for my wife and children. In Haiti the situation is very bad and it is getting worse every day. There are so many people that are desperate to get to the U.S. — I am one of the lucky few that actually had the money to escape that danger and poverty of Haiti.”
The influx of immigration requests was first noted as something significant in the August immigration statistics yearbook issued by the Department of Homeland Security. The report says the number of foreigners seeking citizenship in the 2010 fiscal year grew after a dramatic plunge in applications primarily due to the 2007-2008 economic crisis.
Marie Joseph, 28, said that she wants to be a U.S. citizen because she believes she will have more opportunities.
“Over here I can do everything I could never do in my home country,” she said. “I feel like my life is beginning all over and I know I will make the best of it. A lot of Americans don’t know how good they have it here. They don’t have to fight to be part of this country like I am fighting right now. I think they waste opportunity after opportunity but I know that I will take advantage of every situation that I am put in no matter what.”
By Randy Grice