Caribbean American AGs Urge Biden Administration To Abandon This Trump-Era Immigration Plan

Haiti-born Washington, DC Attorney General Karl Racine is co-leading the effort along with Haitian American Illinois AG Kwame Raoul. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
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News Americas, MIAMI, FL, Tues. Mar. 2, 2021: Two Caribbean American US attorneys general are among 20 urging the Joe Biden administration to abandon a specific Trump-era immigration plan.

Haitian-born Attorney General Karl A. Racine of the District of Colombia, and Haitian-American Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul, are co-leading a group of 20 attorneys general urging the Biden administration to abandon Trump-era plans to terminate family reunification programs impacting Haitian and Filipino immigrants.

The Haitian Family Reunification Parole Program (HFRP) and the Filipino World War II Veteran Parole Program (FWVP) were designed to provide a legal pathway for immigrants from the two countries to come to the United States to join family members already legally living here.

The Trump administration published a notice in the Federal Register indicating that it would eliminate both programs and requested public comments. The attorneys general argue in their comment letter that eliminating these programs has no legal basis because the proposal relies on rescinded Trump administration Executive Orders and directives, would violate the Administrative Procedure Act by ignoring important evidence on the current conditions in Haiti, and harms the public, which benefits from families being together.

“As a Haitian American who rejoined my family after they fled political turmoil in Haiti, I understand the value that reunification programs can offer to families facing dire circumstances,” said AG Racine. “We cannot let Trump-era immigration policies—which sought to treat immigrants as criminals instead of contributors—continue. I’m proud to stand with my fellow Attorneys General, including my fellow Haitian-American Attorney General, Kwame Raoul, in urging the Biden administration to keep these family reunification programs intact.”

The United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) established HFRP in December 2014 to provide a pathway for Haitians with approved family-based immigrant visa applications to join their family members in the United States before receiving their visas. The program gave eligible Haitians the opportunity to safely and legally immigrate on an expedited timeline while Haiti continued to recover from the devastation and destruction of a catastrophic earthquake in 2010. The goal of the program is to promote lawful immigration and to support Haiti’s long-term reconstruction and continued development. Two years after the successful implementation of HFRP, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) created FWVP to assist Filipino veterans who fought alongside the United States during World War II and later came to the United States. The program allowed family members to join these aging veterans, most of whom are in their 90s, in the United States to offer care and support.

In August 2019, the Trump administration announced their intention to eliminate both HFRP and FWVP but waited until December 2020 before acting on it. On December 28, 2020, DHS and USCIS issued a notice that they would rescind these programs and requested public comments. AG Racine and AG Raoul, both Haitian immigrants, formed a multi-state coalition of attorneys general opposing the policy in a public comment letter.

In the letter, the coalition argues that these programs should remain in place because the decision to terminate them “has no legal basis and violates the Administrative Procedure Act.”

The coalition argues that the December 2020 notice announcing the elimination of these programs relies upon an Executive Order and policy memorandum from the previous administration that are no longer in effect and that the notice provided no legal reasons for ending the programs.

The attorneys general also argue that these programs are just as necessary today as they were when they were first created, especially given current conditions in Haiti. Following the 2010 earthquake, Haiti experienced a cholera epidemic that killed at least 10,000 people and a 2016 hurricane that killed more than 1,300 people, destroyed homes, and left 175,000 people displaced. The country continues to grapple with severe economic and political crises.

The United States is home to the largest Haitian and Filipino immigrant populations in the world. “Denying Haitian and Filipino immigrants a pathway for rapid reunification with their families would undermine the progress of these communities and the important social and economic contributions immigrants make,” the group said. “Moreover, family separation can result in negative health outcomes and can be particularly traumatizing to children. The states, their residents, and their health care programs would be forced to bear the burden of the effect of this separation.”

Joining AGs Racine and Raoul are the attorneys general of California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont.