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Advocates: New US immigration plans don’t fit traveler realities, concerns

MIAMI — Humanitarian parole should not come as a tradeoff to asking for asylum at the border, Haitian Bridge Alliance and other advocacy groups said at a press conference Friday, just ahead of President Joe Biden’s weekend trip to the border and Mexico. 

Biden’s new plan states 30,000 Haitians, Nicaraguans and Cubans can apply for humanitarian parole each month from their home country but those who arrive at the border will be automatically expelled. 

Guerline Jozef, executive director of the Haitian Bridge Alliance, raised concerns about phone and internet requirements, passport requirements, plane ticket payment and lack of Creole among the CBP One app languages.

“Imagine you’re a woman…in the middle of the Darien Gap, one of the most extreme dangerous places,” Jozef said during a Jan. 6 conference call. “You do not have a phone. You do not have access to an embassy. How are you going to be able to apply for a program that is supposed to save your life, without any access to actually seeking asylum at the US Mexico border?”

The advocates also condemn the expansion of Title 42, used to expel asylum seekers to Mexico or their native country. Those who seek entry by land to exercise the right to seek asylum will be subject to removal. 

“It is unthinkable that President Joseph R. Biden, who our communities supported in his bid to the White House, is continuing to uphold and expand Donald Trump and Stephen Miller’s racist Frankenstein known as Title 42,” Petit said.

The parole program and expansion of Title 42 mark a significant shift in U.S. policy towards Haitian migrants. Immigration advocates share concerns on the accessibility of the program and the financial impact of sponsor families being responsible for all resettlement costs without federal assistance.

The parole programs initially facilitated entry to the U.S. for those fleeing Afghanistan and Ukraine. Parole is a tool that allows specific groups to enter and temporarily stay in the U.S for humanitarian reasons or because their entrance is determined to be in the public interest. 

There is not a pathway to permanent status through parole programs, and uncertainty if there will be a renewal after two years. Haitians may be left to seek other forms of relief such as asylum, often facing high wait times and costs.

The program for Haitians, Nicaraguans and Cubans builds on a plan introduced in October to admit 24,000 Venezuelans with the means to sponsors.

Unlike refugee status and the United for Ukraine program, people with parole status are ineligible for cash assistance, medicaid or food stamps and receive limited access to case management assistance to help them resettle in the U.S. 

Petit from the Florida Immigration Coalition said the program puts up more hurdles for the most vulnerable migrants.

“We also must ask how implementing a system that requires migrants to have a smartphone with internet access and have a certain level of digital navigation skills to set their immigration appointments impact those desperately seeking safety, especially those who don’t speak English, or Spanish, or don’t manage a written language,” Petit said.

Advocates also iterated that some of the most vulnerable immigrants do not have connections to someone in the U.S. to fulfill a sponsorship requirement, the latest parole program that has spurred much interest throughout Haitian communities.

“The right to seek safety should not be a function of your family’s checkbook,” Paul Namphy, lead organizer of Family Action Network Movement (FANM) told The Haitian Times after the plan was announced Thursday.  “This is the marketplace discriminating against the poor.”

The Haitian Bridge Alliance organized the media call alongside the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies, Hope Border Institute, US-Mexico Border Program, American Friends Service Committee, Human Rights First, Center for Gender and Refugee Studies also spoke. 

Melissa Crow from the Litigation Center for Gender and Refugee Studies called the humanitarian parole program “out of touch” with real life circumstances on the ground.

“Asylum seekers generally don’t have the luxury of using President Biden’s words, ‘staying where they are’ to make an appointment and biding their time until the appointment gets scheduled,” Crow said. 

Dylan Corbett from the Hope Border Institute in El Paso said he continues to see ongoing arrivals of Venezuelans at the border despite the parole program. 

“We continue to see ongoing serial expulsions of vulnerable persons with credible and compelling asylum claims,” Corbett said. “And some of the families who have been able to cross. For example, just the other day [a family was] huddling in the cold downtown overnight, were actually arrested by border enforcement.”

When Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas was asked during a press conference about limiting parole to those with financial backing, he only said policies for Venezuelans and Ukrainians succeeded.

“We find this to be a humane, lawful and orderly way,” Mayorkas said at a news conference. 

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