Diaspora

Democratic, GOP lawmakers press State to renew focus on Haiti – The Hill

Two members of the House Appropriations Committee from each side of the aisle are calling on the State Department to “intensify U.S. diplomatic attention to address the ongoing crisis in Haiti.”
Reps. Mario Díaz-Balart (R-Fla.) and Adriano Espaillat (D-N.Y.), penned a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken Thursday, asking him to focus in particular on the Haiti-Dominican Republic border.
“We are profoundly concerned by the mounting challenges facing Haiti in the wake of several crises, and by the impact on its neighbor the Dominican Republic,” wrote Díaz-Balart and Espaillat.
“Haiti’s institutions are under severe stress, and its people are suffering widespread civil unrest, daily crime and gang violence, kidnappings, inadequate health care, and shortages of necessities such as food, medicines, and fuel,” they added.
Over the past year, Haiti has gone through a presidential assassination and a significant earthquake, after already contending with a destabilizing constitutional crisis and a metastasizing criminal gang issue.
The United States has also embarked on a mass repatriation program to Haiti, forcibly returning more than 20,000 Haitians to an ongoing humanitarian crisis over the course of the Biden administration.
The administration has also extended the Temporary Protected Status designation for Haiti, a move that added around 100,000 Haitians to the program, allowing them to temporarily live and work in the U.S.
While some State Department officials have visited the Caribbean nation over the past few weeks, the simmering crisis has been mostly left on the diplomatic back-burner amid Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine, efforts to restart the Iran nuclear deal and other international priorities.
Díaz-Balart and Espaillat noted in their letter that Dominican resources have been strained in an attempt to contain the Haitian crisis, while easing the flow of assistance to the neighboring country.
“The shortages of essential goods that Haiti is experiencing would be worse were it not for the efforts of Dominican authorities to keep the border secure, while remaining open to legitimate commerce,” they wrote.
“We have been informed that both Haitian and Dominican authorities have asked for help in protecting their shared border by accommodating the orderly transportation of goods, cross-border commerce and travel, and the interdiction of trafficking of contraband and persons, which will enhance the internal security of both countries,” added the legislators.
Díaz-Balart and Espaillat called on Blinken to coordinate with the Department of Homeland Security to provide aid to Haitian and Dominican authorities patrolling and managing the 243-mile-long border that intersects the island of Hispaniola.
Díaz-Balart, whose parents fled the 1959 Cuban Revolution, and Espaillat, who came to the U.S. during his childhood as an undocumented Dominican migrant, noted the House approved funding for the State Department to address health care burdens in both countries.
“It is crucial that we work with others in the international community to ensure that Haiti emerges from the many crises that it has endured, and that we assist in stabilizing this important region in our hemisphere,” they wrote.
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