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Congresswoman Wilson leads effort to reunite Haitians families  

Special to the Times | 5/1/2014, 9 a.m.

On Monday Congresswoman Frederica S. Wilson (FL-24) sent a passionate letter to President Barack Obama urging him to create a Haitian Family Reunification Parole Program to promptly reunite families, foster economic development and save lives. Congresswoman Wilson argues that the program’s creation is one of the most broadly supported executive actions the President could take to speed Haiti’s recovery.

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WILSON

“The creation of a Haitian Family Reunification Parole Program is well rooted in need, precedent, and is critical for Haiti’s economic development,” Congresswoman Wilson said. “It will not only reunite tens of thousands of Haitian-Americans with family members already approved by the Department of Homeland Security, it will immediately boost Haiti’s economy and bolster the international effort to create sustainable growth in Haiti.”

While Congresswoman Wilson has been advocating for a Haitian Family Reunification Parole Program for several years, her latest push comes on the heels of a visit to Haiti last month and President Obama’s reaffirmation of U.S. commitment to Haiti’s recovery. Congress members John Conyers Jr., Yvette D. Clarke, Maxine Waters, and Barbara Lee co-signed Congresswoman Wilson’s letter to President Obama.

In November 2013, the State Department reported that 109,471 Haitians with approved family-based visa petitions were waiting to reunite with families in the U.S.  A Haitian Family Reunification Parole Program would allow those Haitians, some of whom are spouses and minor children of U.S. citizens, to wait for permanent resident visas in the United States rather than in disaster-stricken Haiti. The Program would also enable beneficiaries to legally work and contribute to Haiti’s recovery through remittances.

Haitians in the United States remit approximately $2 billion annually, approximately 25 percent of Haiti’s gross domestic product. The funds sent by each expatriate benefit 10 people, on average. This Program would likely expand remittances by about 10 percent, an additional $200 million yearly.

The Haitian Family Reunification Parole Program would not be the first of its kind. Since 2009, tens of thousands of Cubans have been reunited with their families under the Cuban Family Reunification Parole Program. Congresswoman Wilson plans to keep pressuring the Administration on behalf of the thousands of Americans of Haitian descent who have been waiting for years—and in some cases, over a decade—to reunite with their families.  She has formally requested a meeting with President Obama to discuss creating this program.