Another Immigration Blow to Haitians

February 21, 2018 9:53 am
by David Jakeman

The Trump administration announced another round of bad news for Haitians in January 2018. The Department of Homeland Security has rescinded Haiti’s approval for H-2A and H-2B visas. Coming as it does on the heels of the fall 2017 announcement scrapping Temporary Protected Status for Haiti, the announcement is quite demoralizing for the Haitian community and immigration lawyers and advocates.

Reasons for Rescinding the Visas

In the announcement, DHS stated that the reason Haiti would no longer qualify for the visa programs because the country was failing to meet the program standards. It cited high levels of fraud and abuse as well as high rates of visa overstays for why Haiti should no longer qualify. According to a report released by DHS, Haitians on a variety of non-immigrant visas had a 40 percent overstay rate in the fiscal year 2016.1

Haiti was not the only country to lose eligibility. Samoa and Belize also got axed, Samoa because it refused to accept deported nationals, and Belize because it had high rates of human trafficking and was not making serious efforts to combat it. One country was added to the list though – Mongolia.2

Haitians with H-2 Visas

Haitians have made up only a tiny fraction of H-2A and H-2B visas. According to DHS data for the 2016 fiscal year, 65 Haitians came on H-2A visas, and 54 Haitians were given those visas between March and November 2017. H-2A visas are agricultural visas. H-2B visas are non-agricultural visas, and there were apparently too few given out to Haitians to record a number.

Haiti received authorization for the visas in 2012, in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake that hit the country. Proponents say that although not very many people have used the visas, the program has transformed the lives of those who have come over to work. The workers were able to make exponentially larger sums of money, much of which they sent home to family. It was a very effective method of funneling resources to vulnerable people.

But not only Haitians benefited. American employers benefited from a stable, responsible labor force that knew how to work hard all day and keep a smile on their faces. One employer interviewed about the program’s end said that before he was able to bring Haitian employees over to help in his greenhouse, his business went through 300 people for 8 positions in a three-month window. This employer was careful to escort his employees to the airport as their visas expired to make sure no one overstayed. However, others have not been so diligent.

A lot of disappointing news has emanated from the capitol over the past year. Seattle immigration lawyers have been saddened at how policymakers seem to be playing fast and loose with vulnerable people’s lives, and there’s no telling what might be coming next. Hopefully, cooler heads and more compassionate hearts will prevail.

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