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Biden, Congress year-end actions might affect Haiti, immigration 


Overview:

Biden and Congressional members take action at end of 2022 to impact Haiti policy and immigration.

As 2022 comes to an end, a flurry of activity around Haiti’s crises and immigration is taking place on Capitol Hill, with President Joe Biden appointing a special representative to oversee some diplomacy developments this week and Congress looking at passing legislation that might affect Haitian immigrants.

Biden appointed former Senator Christopher Dodd to the State Department position of Special Presidential Advisor for the Americas on November 18. Dodd, who served in both the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate from the state of Connecticut, is tasked with seeing through key Biden administration initiatives — immigration, health, human rights and food security— for the region. He will also help prepare for the upcoming Cities Summit of the Americas taking place in Denver in April 2023.

Dodd, whose experience as a Peace Corps volunteer in the Dominican Republic, and his views on Haitian intervention during the Clinton administration, is no stranger to Haiti. In 2010, Dodd co-sponsored a bill into law to relieve Haiti of its outstanding debt with the International Monetary Fund, also known as the Haiti Recovery Act. 

“Senator Dodd has built trust with many of our partners in the Western Hemisphere,” according to the State Department announcement. 

He’s uniquely qualified to continue delivering President Biden’s message conveyed at the Summit of the Americas — that countries in the hemisphere must tackle their shared challenges together, “to build a sustainable, resilient, and equitable future for the people of the Americas,” said the announcement.

Congressional activity 

In Congress, with eight days to go in the 117th session, Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) urged the Senate to pass the Dream Act for people protected from deportation under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. DACA has been challenged recently by a series of lawsuits claiming the program and others like it are unlawful.

Durbin first introduced the Dream (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) Act in 2001. Last year, he and Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) introduced the Dream Act of 2021. There have been 11 different versions of the original legislation. They all, with some variations, would have provided a pathway to legal status for undocumented people who came to this country as children. 

The House of Representatives passed the latest version with nine Republicans joining all Democrats, but the bill failed to come to a vote in the Senate. Now, Durbin wants senators to reconsider the same bill.

Unless Congress acts in the next three weeks to protect DACA recipients, DACA could end as soon as next year, said the release from Durbin’s office.  

DACA renewals, granted on a rolling basis, would impact local communities almost immediately if renewals were blocked.

It would mean that each month for two years, some 1,600 DACA recipients working in healthcare, including doctors and nurses, 800 educational professionals like teachers and teacher aides and 600 personal care workers in child or senior care would be forced out of their jobs, according to FWD.US, a pro-immigration lobbying group.

Last month, Senator Edward Markey (D-Mass) and others wrote a letter to Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas and Secretary of State Antony Blinken. In it, they encouraged that the second Temporary Protection Status (TPS) designation be redesignated. It occurred under the Biden administration — for those living in the U.S. in July 2021 and protected until Feb. 3, 2023.

Markey wants the designation to include the dates of last Fall, when officials allowed 12,000 Haitian immigrants through the southern border while deporting 25,000 others. The Haitians in that group received either the arriving alien status or the application for asylum, which doesn’t immediately include a work card right away.

Sanctions, other diplomatic moves

November brought two international diplomatic actions. 

The U.S. sanctioned Joseph Lambert, now former president of the Haitian Senate, and Youri Latortue, a former Haitian senator, for their involvement in trafficking drugs and collaborating with criminal and gang networks. The Canadian government took the lead November 20 in sanctioning and freezing the financial accounts of Haitian politicians’ suspected of backing criminal gangs in Haiti. Those accounts included those of former president Michel Martelly, and two former Haitian prime ministers, Laurent Lamothe and Jean-Henry Céant.

In response to a request for an international armed force made by Haiti’s interim Prime Minister Ariel Henry, some in the Biden administration are pushing to send a multinational armed force to the country, according to a New York Times article. The Biden administration, however, is encountering resistance to rallying a multinational force from both members of the U.N. and American military leaders, not wanting a mission that would require a significant amount of time and resources, according to U.S. officials.

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