PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Hundreds of Haitians flock daily to Port-au-Prince’s only immigration office, crowding against the bright blue door as they strain to hear if their name is called, hoping they will soon be chosen to legally live in the United States under a new immigration plan.
The crowd has swelled since US President Joe Biden announced on Thursday 5 that the United States would accept 30,000 people a month from Haiti, Nicaragua, Cuba and Venezuela. Those selected will be eligible to work for two years if they have eligible sponsors and pass background checks.
Those selected will also need a passport to travel, causing the daily rush at the immigration office in the Haitian capital.
“I’m here to leave Haiti, but I don’t want to risk my life via a boat,” said Jennyfer Leonard, a 30-year-old teacher, referring to the recent deaths of dozens of Haitian migrants smuggled aboard boats. . tries to reach the United States
“It would be nice to go with my two children so they have a future, but I don’t want to risk them dying along the way,” she said.
So, like hundreds of other Haitians in recent days, she opted for the recently announced legal route to the United States instead of joining the tens of thousands of Haitians who were intercepted at the US-Mexico border and deported. .
On Wednesday, an aggressive crowd gathered at the immigration office in the scorching sun to apply for a passport, take one, renew an existing one or check the status of an application.
” It’s my name ? It’s my name ? people were screaming every time a government official approached the door and called someone.
Garry Saint Paul, 25, was among those waiting to collect his passport.
He previously worked in the neighboring Dominican Republic as a hotel concierge until his contract and passport expired, forcing him to return to Haiti where he remains unemployed.
“Haiti is under siege,” he said. “The gangs are taking over. Why not leave if you have the chance?
Gangs control around 60% of Port-au-Prince, becoming more powerful and violent since President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated in his private residence in July 2021. Reported kidnappings soared to more than 1,200 last year, double the previous year, and 280 of the killings were reported in November, a monthly record, according to the UN
“Life is really hard,” said Leonard, the teacher, whose brother is a truck driver in Philadelphia and has agreed to be his financial sponsor.
Violence is also a big concern for Salomon Jean-Pierre, a 22-year-old accounting student who stood in line near Leonard.
“The only thing Haiti promises you is death,” he said.
Jean-Pierre doesn’t have a financial sponsor yet, but he contacted his aunt in Atlanta, who said she would talk to her cousin there and see if he could help.
“I’ll prepare my papers just in case,” said Jean-Pierre. “I hope for the best that Haiti will change, but I see no future. … If it works for me, Atlanta, I’m coming!
Poverty and hunger are deepening across Haiti, a country of over 11 million people where more than 60% earn less than $2 a day. Inflation has soared into double digits as Haiti becomes more politically unstable, with its last democratically elected institution – the Senate – expiring on Tuesday.
Promises to hold legislative and general elections have yet to materialize amid concerns about rising violence.
Given the worsening situation, Saint Paul hopes his brother-in-law in Texas will sponsor him financially for two years. He then plans to stay in the United States after his stay expires.
“There’s no way I’m coming back,” he said, adding that he expects the United States to renew or extend the humanitarian parole plan. “I know that immigrants are the ones who built America. America will always need immigrants.
Associated Press writer Dánica Coto in San Juan, Puerto Rico, contributed to this report.