HIAS Strongly Supports H.E.L.P. Act to Expand Immigration Options for Haitians

Posted on Tue, Feb 09, 2010 at 16:52 pm

(New York, NY) – HIAS, the international migration agency of the American Jewish community, strongly supports the Haitian Emergency Life Protection Act of 2010 (The H.E.L.P. Act.), introduced on Friday by Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ), and Representative Yvette Clarke (D-NY).

The H.E.L.P. Act will increase immigration options for Haitians by temporarily expanding the V non-immigrant visa category to include Haitians with family-sponsored immigrant petitions approved on or before January 12, 2010. These Haitians then could come to the U.S. without undue delay to join their families and work here while awaiting their turn in line for a green card. The bill also will increase State Department funding to help ensure that the U.S. Consulate in Haiti has the capacity to process these visas.

According to Gideon Aronoff, President & CEO of HIAS, “HIAS enthusiastically supports the H.E.L.P. Act as a welcome and helpful component in our country's efforts to assist Haiti and Haitians in their time of greatest need. Allowing Haitians – many of whom will be eligible to immigrate in the future because of their family ties to U.S. citizens and permanent residents regardless of the steps we take now – to come to the U.S. to join their families and work towards the rebuilding of their country is the appropriate response during these difficult economic times.

“Allowing some Haitians to come to the U.S. to work and live in safety will ensure a steady flow of resources in the form of remittances to Haiti that will significantly supplement any aid the U.S. can give, and will relieve some of the pressure for assistance from aid operations and the Haitian government. A carefully targeted immigration program directed at Haitians with the strongest ties to the U.S. would also help prevent Haitians from risking their lives by getting on boats in a desperate attempt to reach the United States.

“For many years, HIAS has been an advocate for the fair treatment of Haitian migrants and asylum seekers who have reached or sought to reach our shores, and we are fortunate to be able to utilize our decades of experience in immigration and advocacy to confront the array of immigration issues arising from this devastating earthquake.”