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Clinton: More immigrants from Haiti may be allowed

Federal officials try to prevent earthquake victims from risking dangerous voyages

William E. Gibson – Sun Sentinel

Issue date: 1/28/10 Section: World News
  • WASHINGTON (MCT) – U.S. officials are talking about allowing more Haitian immigrants to come to this country because of the devastation in their homeland, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton indicated on Monday.She stopped far short of announcing any change, but she indicated accepting larger numbers of immigrants was one option for relieving the crisis in Haiti.”We are certainly looking at that and will have more to say later,” she said when asked at a news conference about allowing more legal immigration from Haiti.Such a change would boost Haitian communities in Florida, home to more than 250,000 Haitian-born immigrants – 46 percent of the nation’s total.”One of the options people are talking about is to accelerate the cases of all those people who already had been approved to come in,” said Lavinia Limon, former director of the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement and now president of the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants.Newly arriving immigrants are excluded from Medicaid for five years, and relatives who petition to bring in family members must agree to support them.

    “These people would not be eligible for welfare,” Limon said.

    Federal officials are trying to prevent Haitians from risking dangerous voyages on small boats bound for Florida, and state and local officials want to avoid a costly mass exodus. The question is whether more Haitian immigrants should be allowed to come in a controlled, legal way.

    “Unless our government does something to make sure loved ones can join families quickly, it could have devastating consequences for those in Haiti waiting for these visas,” said Cheryl Little, director of the Florida immigrant Advocacy Center in Miami. “It can take years and years.”

    “All we are trying to do is expedite the process,” Little said. “If they can come here, work and support themselves and send money to Haiti, that’s a win-win situation.”

    The Obama administration already has suspended deportations of Haitians and extended temporary legal status to tens of thousands of unauthorized Haitians who live in this country.

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