Home PoliticsAfrica News Biden administration welcomes Haiti, five other countries to guest-worker visa programs

Biden administration welcomes Haiti, five other countries to guest-worker visa programs

by Jacqueline Charles

Haitians are once more eligible for temporary, seasonal work in the United States under two federal guest-worker programs, three years after being kicked out by the Trump administration.

The Department of Homeland Security announced Tuesday that it was reinstating Haiti in the H-2A and H-2B guest worker visa programs for the coming year, which allows farmers, hotel workers and other laborers to apply for temporary work in the U.S. Haiti is among six new countries whose nationals are now eligible. The notice listing the countries will be published in the Federal Register on Wednesday.

The other newly-designated countries are the Dominican Republic (currently only eligible for H-2A), Saint Lucia, Herzegovina, the Republic of Cyprus and Mauritius. The Biden administration also announced the removal of Moldova as an eligible country for H-2A visas after its current eligibility runs out on Jan. 18, 2022, because it no longer meets the regulatory standard.

The H-2A program allows U.S. employers or U.S. agents who meet specific regulatory requirements to bring foreign nationals to the United States to fill temporary agricultural jobs. H-2B visas are for non-agricultural jobs.

“The Department of Homeland Security is committed to working with our interagency partners to ensure that companies in the United States can fill temporary or seasonal jobs for which U.S. workers are not available,” DHS Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas said. “Adding these six new countries will enable their nationals to apply for temporary work in the United States.”

The administration’s reinstatement of Haiti will offer relief to some Haitians at a time when the U.S. continues to come under fire for its immigration policy toward Haitians and its Haiti foreign policy. In recent months thousands of Haitians have sought to enter the United States illegally, hoping to escape a growing wave of gang violence, kidnappings and political instability in their country following the assassination of their president and a devastating earthquake this summer in the course of five weeks.

Since Sept. 19, when the U.S. began deportations of thousands of Haitians living under an international bridge in Del Rio, Texas, some 8,500 Haitian migrants on 81 flights have been returned to Haiti from the U.S., according to advocates. They are among more than 11,500 Haitians who have been deported back to the country from Mexico, Cuba, the Bahamas, and Turks and Caicos, according to the International Organization for Migration.

In 2018, the Trump administration announced that Haiti was being kicked out of the guest worker program due to “extremely high rates of refusal… high levels of fraud and abuse and a high rate of overstaying the terms of their H-2 admission.” At the time of the announcement, Haitians and immigration advocates protested the decision because it eliminated the only lawful channel some Haitians had to seek temporary employment in the U.S.

The Trump administration also rolled back Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, for more than 300,000 immigrants, including Haitians, who had been allowed to temporarily live and work in the U.S. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced in 2019 its intention to end the Haitian Family Reunification Parole program. The program expedited entry into the U.S. for Haitians eligible for green cards.

Ira Kurzban, a Miami immigration attorney who filed a federal lawsuit after Trump announced the end of TPS for Haiti and has been advocating for the reinstatement of the guest worker visa for Haitians, welcomed the Biden administration’s decision. It comes on the heels of DHS’s announcement in May that it was granting a new TPS designation for Haiti, allowing more undocumented Haitians to benefit as long as they were in the U.S. as of July 29 of this year.

“The Trump administration for purely racist reasons stopped all benefits to Haitians including allowing them to participate in the H-2A and H-2B programs,” Kurzban said. “These programs are designed to help U.S. employers and help people in Haiti who remit their salaries to help their families in Haiti. Elections matter and the current administration’s including H-2A and H-2B are a benefit to U.S. employers and building the economy in Haiti.”

In welcoming the reinstatement of the guest worker program, Haitians and immigration advocates say they are still awaiting an announcement by the administration of the return of the Haitian Family Reunification program, especially as their country seems headed for a social explosion. Life is increasingly becoming unbearable with hospitals, schools, and businesses shutting down because of armed gangs that are blocking supplies of fuel, which is leading to deaths in some hospitals and Haitians suffering food shortages, a lack of potable water, and increased electrical blackouts.

Source: Miami Herald


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