haitian migrants del rio
U.S. Customs and Border Protection drops off migrants at a bus station, in September, after their release from custody. Photo by Leonardo March

When it comes to immigration policy, advocating for reforms has proven difficult in the wake of the September migration crisis in Del Rio, Texas. 

Members of the National Haitian American Elected Officials Network (NHAEON) outlined a list of 13 policy reform proposals in early October. And despite federal inaction on these proposals thus far, they have promised to keep up the pressure. 

“It’s not a priority, and that’s the bottom line,” said NHAEON chair Alix Desulme, about federal immigration policy reform. “We will continue to advocate and we will do what we do, and that’s why it’s important we’re doing what we can to make sure we have [allies] in Congress.” 

The policy reforms requested by NHAEON concern immigration enforcement, resettlement in the United States, transparency and public health. 

Immigration enforcement

Granting humanitarian parole to Haitian migrants is the first of the 13 policies NHAEON outlined in a document on its website. The organization also requested a halt to deportations and expulsions of migrants to Haiti. 

Title 42, a public health law that prevents migrants from seeking asylum, should also be discontinued. All migrants, NHAEON said in the document, should be allowed to present a valid asylum claim to a judge or immigration officer. 

More efficient processing for migrants, which is addressed in the Build Back Better bill that has yet not passed Congress, is included in NHAEON’s proposal for a “better” immigration system. 

Resettlement

In its requests for resettlement assistance NHAEON demanded that the Biden administration collaborate with refugee agencies to release migrants. 

They also called for a resettlement program implemented by Haitian professionals that includes housing support and government-funded employment services. 

Resources are also needed for in-country resettlement services in Haiti, for those already deported. And, NHAEON has demanded more funding for the Cuban-Haitian Entrant Program in the U.S.

Transparency

Nationwide, Haitians and non-Haitians alike were disturbed by images of Border Patrol officers brandishing whips against migrants at the border in Texas. NHAEON has requested a thorough investigation of these events within 90 days and the publication of a report after its completion. 

Knowing the locations of detained migrants, with the ability to evaluate their well-being, was part of a proposal for an independent migrant audit. A separate proposal requests access to contact information for migrants released into the U.S., so that immigration attorneys can assist them with asylum claims. 

Public health

In NHAEON’s proposal to address COVID-19 concerns, the organization suggested the provision of testing and personal protective equipment, while advising against detaining migrants en masse in “congregate settings.” 

Those who are willing and qualify for vaccination should be able to receive one in the U.S., NHAEON also requested in its policy document. 

Sam is a reporter for The Haitian Times and a 2020 Report for America corps member. He has covered Haiti and its diaspora since 2018. His work has also appeared in USA Today, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and Haiti Liberte. Sam can be reached at sam@haitiantimes.com or on Twitter @sambojarski.

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