Haitians seizing on legal path to US rush to secure passport


PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Hundreds of Haitians are flocking daily to the only immigration office in Port-au-Prince, pressed against the bright blue gate as they strain to hear their names. called or not, hopefully they will be picked up soon. legally live in the United States under a new immigration plan.

Crowds have grown since US President Joe Biden announced on Thursday that the US would accept 30,000 people a month from Haiti, Nicaragua, Cuba and Venezuela. Those selected will have the right to work for two years if they have qualified sponsors and pass a background check.

Those selected will also need a passport to travel, prompting the immigration office in the Haitian capital to rush in daily.

“I came here to leave Haiti, but I don’t want to risk my life by boat,” Jennyfer Leonard, a 30-year-old teacher, said of the dozens of Haitian migrants who have died on boats recently. make an effort to come to America

“It would be nice to go with my two children so they have a future, but I’m not willing to risk them dying along the way,” she said.

So, like hundreds of other Haitians in recent days, she chose the recently announced legal route to the United States instead of joining the tens of thousands of Haitians who have been stopped at the US border. -Mexico and deported.

On Wednesday, an aggressive mob gathered at the immigration office under the blazing sun to apply for a passport, receive a passport, renew an existing passport or check the status of an application.

“Is that my name? Is that my name?” people shouted every time a government official approached the gate to call someone.

Garry Saint Paul, 25, is among those waiting for their passports.

He previously worked in the neighboring Dominican Republic as a janitor at a hotel until his contract and passport expired, forcing him to return to Haiti, where he remained unemployed.

“Haiti is under siege,” he said. “The gangs are taking over. Why not leave if you have the chance?

The gangs that control an estimated 60% of Port-au-Prince, have grown stronger and more violent since President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated at his private residence in July 2021. Reported toads jumped to more than 1,200 last year, double the previous year, and 280 homicides were reported in November, a monthly record, according to the United Nations.

“Life is really hard,” said Leonard, a teacher, whose brother is a truck driver in Philadelphia and has agreed to be her financial sponsor.

Violence is also a major concern for Salomon Jean-Pierre, a 22-year-old accounting student standing in line near Leonard.

“The only thing Haiti promises you is death,” he said.

Jean-Pierre doesn’t have a financial sponsor yet, but he contacted his aunt in Atlanta who said she would talk to his cousin there and see if he could help. are not.

Jean-Pierre said: “I will have the paperwork ready just in case. “I hope for the best that Haiti will change, but I don’t see the future. … If this works for me, Atlanta, here I come!

Poverty is deepening across Haiti, a country of more than 11 million people with more than 60% earning less than $2 a day. Inflation has soared to double digits while Haiti has grown increasingly politically unstable, with the last democratically elected institution – the Senate – set to expire on Tuesday.

Promises to hold legislative and general elections have yet to materialize amid fears of rising violence.

With the situation getting worse, Saint Paul hoped his brother-in-law in Texas would financially support him for two years. After that, he plans to stay in the US after his stay expires.

“There’s no way I’m going back,” he said, adding that he hoped the United States would extend or extend its humanitarian parole plan. “I know that immigrants are the people who built America. America has always needed immigrants.”

Associated Press writer Đénica Coto of San Juan, Puerto Rico, contributed to this report.


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