By Jeff Brumley
Leaders of five of the nation’s largest African-American Baptist communions are urging President Obama to streamline the system for reuniting Haitians with family members already living in the United States.
The Sept. 5 letter to the White House is signed by presidents Nehemiah Davis of the National Missionary Baptist Convention of America; Gregory Moss of the Lott Carey Baptist Foreign Mission Society; James Perkins of the Progressive National Baptist Convention; Julius Scruggs of the National Baptist Convention USA, Inc.; and Samuel Tolbert, president of the National Baptist Convention of America.
They urge the president to act “as soon as possible” to create a Haitian Family Reunification Parole Program.
If implemented by the Department of Homeland Security, the program would speed the process of granting visas to Haitians who have already been approved for family-based immigrant visa petitions by the DHS. It would allow them to live with family members in the U.S. while seeking permanent resident status.
The current waiting period is approximately 12 years for the nearly 110,000 Haitians already on the list, according to the Baptist letter. Obama is reminded that such an expedited system is already in place for Cubans.
“We ask you demonstrate fairness to Haitian families by providing the same opportunity for them to wait for their permanent resident status in safety with their petitioning U.S.-based families, just as expedited Cuban parolees are able to do.”
The Baptist leaders also urge the president to consider the moral impact of such a policy. It would “help fortify families that have been fractured in unimaginable ways” by the 2010 Haiti earthquake.
Plus it makes good economic sense, the Baptists say in their letter, because Haitians working in the U.S. send nearly $2 billion annually back home a year.
“The stability offered families through this program will contribute to a safe, strong and stable Haiti without negative implications for the U.S. economy.”
The letter said the HFRPP enjoys bipartisan support among more than 100 members of Congress. Other supporters include the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the Congressional Black Caucus and the American Bar Association.
Other Baptist groups also endorse the idea.
“As one who has been in Haiti quite a bit in the last four years I can affirm the assertions in the letter and agree that this proposal would bring no harm to the U.S. and would greatly enhance the financial situation of many, many Haitians,” said Dean Miller of the Virginia Baptist Mission Board
The VBMB has been heavily involved in Haiti, including in major projects to help rebuild after the 2010 quake.
“We should continue living into the roots of our American culture by providing a place for others to freely come to our country and discover their own version of ‘the American dream,’” Dean, leader of the VBMB’s glocal missions team, told ABPnews/Herald. “As a country, the richness of our diversity is one of the things that makes us who we are and continues to shape us into being the leader that the world expects.”