State Senate approves program to reunite Haitian families
2/23/2012, 4 a.m.
Initiative attempts to mimic U.S. policies for Cubans By now it has become public knowledge that Haiti and its people have suffered much since the worst earthquake in modern history devastated their tiny nation. In the two years since, casualties have risen due to both the initial earthquake and an outbreak of cholera. Even with a new president at the helm, conditions in Haiti are far from stable. In recognizing the struggles Haitians are facing, several state senators have asked the federal government to make it easier for Haitians to join their family members in the U.S. America is the nation that reaches out to all of the downtrodden; it is only right that we help our Haitian brothers and sisters, said Gary Siplin, 58, state senator District 19. It is difficult for Haitians right now. I would hope that they would help the Haitians just as they helped the Cubans. Cuba hasnt had an earthquake like Haiti did. The Senate voted for a memorial asking the Department of Homeland Security to create the Haitian Family Reunification Program. The memorial is aimed at speeding up the immigration process for Haitians looking to leave the country in the aftermath of the massive 2010 earthquake. The memorial, which does not actually create or change any laws, is seen as a symbolic gesture. Things are still very difficult for my family in Haiti, said Melissa Saint Louis, 42, who came to the U.S. five years ago. The earthquake was just the beginning of the list of problems for the people of Haiti. A lot of people, including my family, lost their homes and some people lost their lives. Daniel Pierre, 30, who also has family in Haiti, says that the conditions in the country are extremely bad. My family has been suffering since 2010 and it seems like there is no end in sight for them, he said. I wish that I could just have them all close to me right here in America that would make me happy. Currently there are nearly 55,000 Haitians with approved visa petitions waiting to receive authorization to come to the U.S., according to the Senate. The proposed program is similar to the Cuban Family Reunification Program created in 2007. That program is aimed at discouraging immigrants from attempting dangerous and illegal methods for coming into the country. There are people here that have families that have been tremendously affected by the 2010 earthquake, said Oscar Braynon, II, 35, state senator District 33. I try to put myself in their shoes. If I were one of them and my grandmother or mother had to suffer through cholera I would want help too. I think something like this is really a no brainer. Soon after the earthquake two years ago, President Barrack Obamas administration extended Temporary Protected Status to Haitians currently residing in the U.S. Our Haitian brother and sisters are still living in pretty terrible conditions, Siplin said. At this point all the president would have to do is sign an executive order [to initiate the program]. By Randy Gricergrice@miamitimesonline.com