Have you noticed that lately there seem to be more stories in the media about the status of undocumented or illegal immigrants in the United States? For example, recently there have been articles on former President Bill Clinton addressing Haitian immigration issues; Immigration attorneys in South Florida reporting an increase in the number of foreign investors applying for U.S. green cards and President Obama setting goals to introduce immigration legislation by the year 2010. It may be in part to the Obama administration’s desire to overhaul a system that President Obama states is “broken.” Obama’s immigration initiative is second only to the administration’s initiatives on healthcare, energy legislation and a revamping of financial regulatory rules.
There has been a long-standing debate on the fairness of current immigration laws regarding some ethnic groups versus others; such as the “wet foot, dry foot” policy leading to expedited legal permanent resident status for Cuban immigrants versus Haitian immigrants who are deported back to Haiti. Unfortunately, this has at times caused tensions between the two cultural groups. Now an additional wrinkle is being introduced, Latin American and European foreign nationals who have the money to apply for investor visas that may ultimately lead to their residency and/or citizenship. According to Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies, the purpose of investor visas is to offer immigrants the chance to stimulate the economy within the United States; however, obtaining such a visa and/or green card also offers a faster track to residency and citizenship. Investors who obtain a temporary green card may be able to live and work anywhere in the U.S. for two years, along with their spouse and children under the age of 21; after two years they can apply for permanent green cards; and after five years from the original approval they can apply for citizenship. Compare that to the typical 12 to 15 years for applicants sponsored by their family, which unfortunately would probably describe the situation for many undocumented Haitian immigrants.
Recently at the second annual “Haitian Diaspora Unity Congress," former President Bill Clinton, Haitian Prime Minister Michele Pierre-Louis and others addressed the plight of undocumented Haitians in the U.S. Clinton advised those in attendance who were lobbying the Obama administration for Temporary Protected Status for an estimated 30,000 undocumented Haitian immigrants to do so with respect and patience. Clinton alluded to the complexities of the current immigration policy. While some in attendance seemed to appreciate Clinton’s remarks, others stated that the Haitian American community needed to be more proactive in resolving issues within its community. This issue will undoubtedly continue to generate more debate and hopefully dialogue not only within specific cultural groups, such as the Haitian community, but also among intercultural groups nationwide.
For more information: