February 21, 2017
Executive Overreach? Obama To Let 100K Haitians Into U.S. Without Visa

In what some are calling another example of executive overreach, President Obama is under fire from Republicans for a controversial plan that would allow up to 100,000 Haitians to come into the United States without the need for a visa.

Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) took aim at the Obama administration on Friday, saying that the President's Haitian Family Reunification Parole Program was "an irresponsible overreach of the executive branch's authority."

"Which countries are next on President Obama's list?" Grassley asked, according to The Washington Times.

"Will there be medical screenings before entry?" Grassley asked, possibly alluding to the ongoing concern of the Ebola virus migrating out of western Africa.

Grassley's statement on the matter also raised concerns on work permits, as well as the potential impact of such permits on American workers.

Grassley's complaints came in light of an announcement by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the branch of Homeland Security that handles immigration benefits issues. The office said on Friday that it would begin ramping up the The Haitian Family Reunification Parole program, which aims to reunite Haitians already living in the United States with their family members living abroad.

The program is aimed at expediting "safe, legal, and orderly migration," with the goal of building a foundation for "a safe and economically strong Haiti."

haiti earthquake immigration program
Haiti is still recovering from a devastating earthquake that destroyed much of the country's capital, Port-au-Prince. Image via Guyana Chronicle.

In 2010, a magnitude 7.0 earthquake devastated Haiti's capital, Port-au-Prince. The death toll from that event ranges as high as 220,000, and the already impoverished country still has not recovered from the seismic event.

USCIS' statement on the program noted that a stronger Haiti is "a priority for the United States," and that the United States "strongly discourages individuals in Haiti from undertaking life-threatening and illegal maritime journeys" to the U.S. Such individuals, the USCIS release notes, will not be eligible for the HFRP program, and they may be returned to Haiti if they are located at sea.

Which individuals will qualify for the program? USCIS will offer "certain eligible Haitian beneficiaries of already approved family-based immigrant visa petitions, who are currently in Haiti, an opportunity to come to the United States." Those eligible can stay for up to two years before their immigrant visa status becomes an issue.

The release notes that the HFRP is made possible under the same Immigration and Nationality Act that allowed USCIS to institute the Cuban Family Reunification Parole program in 2007, under then-President George W. Bush.

The USCIS statement also notes that Haitians entering under the program will be allowed to apply for work permits, but they will not receive permanent resident status any earlier.

[Lead image via USCGNews.]