Washington, DC – With Haiti in ruins and hundreds of thousands of people left homeless by the earthquake, Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ) announced today that they will introduce legislation that would allow an estimated 55,000 Haitians who already have approved immigration petitions to join their relatives in the United States. The legislation would also provide the opportunity to apply for work, and send money back home. The Gillibrand-Menendez bill would speed up entrance into the U.S. for Haitian children and adults whose applications have been delayed due to the quake – approximately 20,000 of whom have families in New York. Representative Yvette D. Clarke (D-Brooklyn) will introduce a similar bill in the House.
Senator Gillibrand said, “During this catastrophe, it is important that we do everything we can to bring Haitian families together. Families here at home still fear for the safety of their relatives in Haiti, many of whom are homeless. This legislation allows those with approved petitions to finally unite with their U.S. households as quickly as possible and send money back at a time when Haiti is so desperate for help.”
Senator Menendez said, “With this legislation, we can act with compassion toward Haitians whose lives have been devastated and who have been waiting in line as part of the immigration process.”
“As a Representative of the second highest concentration of first and second Haitian immigrants, my office has been and continues to be inundated with families desperately trying to reunite with their loved ones directly affected by the devastation in Haiti,” said Representative Yvette D. Clarke. “I applaud Senator Gillibrand and Senator Menendez for working with me on this legislation, which would allow Haitians with approved I-30 petitions to come to the US now and be with their loved ones here while they wait for their visa numbers. It is imperative that we keep families together during this time of crisis.”
The destruction of Port-au-Prince’s infrastructure and the potential public health crisis halted the regular consular processing of Haitians with familial ties to the United States. With U.S. Embassy staff focused on relief efforts, the Gillibrand-Menendez legislation, The Haitian Emergency Life Protection Act of 2010, would expand resources to help expedite the backlog of family-based requests by boosting the State Department’s personnel screening of Haitian immigrants. And because many in Haiti have lost their required documentation during the quake, the bill grants State Department and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services the authority to use the best evidence available in processing applications, including secondary evidence.
Those with approved immigrant petitions who are waiting to come to the U.S. include spouses and minor children of U.S. permanent residents, adult children of U.S. citizens and permanent residents, and married children, siblings, and their spouses of U.S. citizens. V Visa recipients would not be eligible for unemployment benefits, Medicare or other federal services and must follow the regular process of applying for a green card.