US under pressure for terminating Haitian Family Reunification Parole ProgramWednesday, March 03, 2021
WASHINGTON, DC, United States (CMC) — A coalition of United States attorneys general is urging the Joe Biden Administration to withdraw its decision to terminate the Haitian Family Reunification Parole Program.
The attorneys general made their request in a joint letter to Alejandro Mayorkas, secretary of the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and Tracy Renaud, senior official performing the duties of the director of US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
The attorneys general who signed the letter are from Illinois, the District of Columbia, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New ersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont.
They urged DHS and USCIS to withdraw the Notice of December 28, 2020, “Removal of Instructions Regarding the Haitian Family Reunification Programme and Filipino World War II Veteran Parole Program.”
That notice was issued under the previous President Donald J Trump's Administration.
“USCIS's decision to terminate the Haitian Family Reunification Parole Program (HFRP) arrives at an especially perilous time for Haiti,” the attorneys general wrote. “Eleven years after a catastrophic earthquake struck and crippled Haiti for years, the nation now faces Government destabilisation and severe political unrest, along with cascading crises of food insecurity and endemic kidnapping that has forced many Haitians not to leave their homes.
“HFRP, which allows Haitians the opportunity to arrive early in the United States after their visa applications are already approved, has brought relief to many Haitians seeking to rejoin their families and escape increasingly dire conditions at home,” they added. “USCIS's notice ending the programme, along with the Filipino World War II Veteran Parole (FWVP) Program, acknowledges none of this — not the economic and political hardships playing out in Haiti, the obvious benefits flowing from early arrival of Haitians in the [United] States, or the abandonment of the goals USCIS announced when establishing HFRP in 2014.
“Indeed, USCIS has offered a strikingly sparse justification of its decision to terminate the modest but clearly advantageous changes brought about by HFRP, which undoubtedly violates the Administrative Procedure Act,” they continued. “In light of the ongoing challenges that persist in Haiti, the family unity and other benefits HFRP and other family reunification programmes have brought to the States, and USCIS's poor justification for terminating the HFRP Program, the States urge not only that USCIS withdraw the notice, but that USCIS commits to restarting and expanding the HFRP Programme.”
The coalition noted that USCIS's move to terminate HFRP in December 2020, including its pronouncement that Haiti “had made significant progress”, arrived amid a Haitian constitutional crisis “that has and is continuing to produce mass unrest and insecurity across the country”.
The coalition said several factors contribute to the situation in the French-speaking Caribbean country. It said a wave of kidnappings and other criminal activity has brought the country to a “near-standstill as Haitians have formed mass protests against the rule of President Jovenel Mo´se”.
The coalition said Mo´se has been ruling by decree since January 2020, and that Haiti lacks an active Parliament after scheduled elections did not occur in 2019.
The attorneys general said Mo´se also ordered the retirement of three of the country's Supreme Court justices.
“In response, the Haitian judicial system has ceased operation entirely,” they wrote. “Riot police are cracking down on the resulting protests, firing live rounds at protestors with handguns and rifles.
“Kidnapping reached epidemic levels in 2020 and continues to leave many Haitians in fear of leaving their homes. Many schools have closed, and a conference of Haiti's bishops recently pronounced the nation 'on the verge of explosion', ” they added.
The attorneys general said the decision to terminate the HFRP “has no basis in law and violates the Administrative Procedure Act (APA)”.
They said that the APA provides that agency action is “unlawful and must be set aside if it is not in accordance with law; in excess of statutory jurisdiction, authority, or limitations; or arbitrary, capricious, [or] an abuse of discretion”.
Second, the attorneys general said not only are the executive order and the implementing memorandum no longer in effect, “but, even if they were, they provide no justification for ending the HFRP Program by their own terms”.
Third, they said the stated rationale for ending the programme in the notice itself “ignores the various bases for authorising the programme in the first place, as well as current conditions in Haiti”.
The coalition said the Haitian community has “long been an integral part of American life”, and that the United States is home to the largest Haitian migrant population in the world, with more than 687,000 residents.
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