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Pressley, Warren, Mass. Lawmakers Urge Biden Administration to Expedite Visa Process for Haitians Fleeing Extreme Unrest, Violence

“The situation in Haiti demands urgent, creative solutions to ensure that, at a minimum, relatives of U.S. persons can be quickly processed and reunited with their families in the United States.”

As of 2023, gangs now control an estimated 80 percent of Port-au-Prince.

BOSTON – Today, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07), Co-Chair of the House Haiti Caucus, joined Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Senator Edward J. Markey (D-MA), and the Massachusetts congressional delegation in sending a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Assistant Secretary for Consular Affairs Rena Bitter, urging them to expedite the processing of immigrant visas for Haitians — particularly for relatives of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents (LPRs). The request comes as Haiti has plunged further into chaos, with gangs reportedly uniting, ousting the country’s prime minister, and coordinating attacks that some warn could spark a civil war.

“We write to express our increasing concern regarding consular operations at the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince, Haiti,” wrote the lawmakers. “We urge the State Department to expedite the processing of immigrant visas for Haitians, particularly for relatives of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents (LPRs).”

 

Haiti has already struggled with long-standing challenges that have contributed to the deterioration of its security situation, including one of the deadliest earthquakes in modern history, severe corruption, massive protests, and crippling debt. In 2021, the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse plunged the country into a state of unrest. As of 2023, the country has had no democratically elected government, and gangs now control an estimated 80 percent of the capital city. The local population faces skyrocketing rates of homicides, kidnappings, internal displacement, cholera, and starvation.

 

“As you recently highlighted, Haiti presents ‘one of the most urgent challenges we face as an international community.’ The situation in Haiti demands urgent, creative solutions to ensure that, at a minimum, relatives of U.S. persons can be quickly processed and reunited with their families in the United States,” wrote the lawmakers.

 

This crisis has led many individuals to seek asylum in the United States. Massachusetts has one of the largest Haitian diasporas in the country, and many Haitian-Americans are desperately trying to sponsor family members still in Haiti. Thousands of Haitian relatives of U.S. citizens and long-term permanent residents (LPRs) are in the processing queue for family-based immigrant visas. However, the U.S. embassy in Port-au-Prince — the U.S. government’s only post in the country — has been operating on an emergency-only basis due to the ongoing security crisis and has suspended or greatly delayed the processing of most visa services.

 

“The State Department must implement stop-gap solutions to more quickly process visas for Haitians in need of urgent protection, even as the U.S. Embassy maintains minimal operations in Haiti,” continued the lawmakers. “We appreciate the scale and complexity of this issue and applaud the work the State Department has already done to explore creative solutions to address the backlog. Still, we urge the State Department to ensure that solutions are implemented with the urgency that this issue demands.”

 

Specifically, the lawmakers are recommending the State Department implement the following policy and operational changes to visa processing in Haiti, including:

 

  1. Waive the personal, in-person appearance requirement, at least for Haitian immediate relatives of U.S. persons.
  2. Ramp up capacity for processing Haitian immigrant visas at a third-country post. 
  3. Establishing a new location for in-person requirements besides the U.S. embassy, given the particularly high level of unrest in the neighborhoods in Port-au-Prince and the threat posed to those who leave their homes.

 

As Representative for the Massachusetts 7th Congressional District, Congresswoman Pressley serves as Co-Chair for the House Haiti Caucus and represents one of the largest Haitian diaspora communities in the country, with approximately 46,000 Haitians and Haitian-Americans living across the state and over half in the Boston metropolitan area. Additionally, Massachusetts is home to more than 4,700 Haitians with Temporary Protected Status.

 

  • On March 20, 2024, Rep. Pressley issued a strong statement condemning Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ comments about transporting Haitian migrants to Martha’s Vineyard.
  • On March 18, 2024, Rep. Pressley, Senator Markey, and Haiti Caucus Co-Chairs Reps. Cherfilus McCormick and Yvette Clarke led their colleagues in urging the Biden Administration to immediately redesignate Temporary Protected Status for Haiti and halt deportations to the island until conditions improve.
  • On March 12, 2024, Rep. Pressley and Haiti Caucus Co-Chairs Reps. Cherfilus McCormick and Yvette Clarke issued a statement on the resignation of Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry.
  • On March 6, 2024, Rep. Pressley issued a statement on the recent jailbreak and State of Emergency in Haiti.
  • On December 8, 2023, Rep. Pressley and Congresswoman Yvette Clarke urged the U.S. Department of State to withdraw U.S. support for an armed foreign intervention in Haiti and encourage negotiations for a Haitian-led democratic political transition.
  • On December 6, 2022, Rep. Pressley issued a statement applauding the Biden Administration’s extension and re-designation of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Haiti.
  • On December 1, 2022, Rep. Pressley, Rep. Cori Bush, and Rep. Mondaire Jones led 14 of their colleagues on a letter to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas urging the Department to extend and redesignate Haiti for Temporary Protected Status (TPS).
  • On August 17, 2022, Rep. Pressley, along with Haiti Caucus Co-Chairs Reps. Val Demings, Yvette Clarke, and Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick (FL-20), called on President Biden to appoint a new Special Envoy to Haiti, a position that has remained unfilled since September 2021.
  • On May 31, 2022, Rep. Pressley and Reverend Dieufort Fleurissaint, chair of Haitian Americans United, published an op-ed in the Bay State Banner in which they called on the Biden administration to withdraw support for de facto ruler of Haiti, Ariel Henry, and instead support an inclusive, civil society-led process to restore stability and democracy on the island.
  • On May 26, 2022, Rep. Pressley, along with with Representatives Jan Schakowsky (IL-09), Andy Levin (MI-09), Jim McGovern (MA-02), and Frederica Wilson (FL-24), led a letter to United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Power urging her to act to ensure food security in Haiti.
  • In February 2022, Reps. Pressley, Judy Chu (CA-27), and Nydia Velázquez (NY-07) led 33 other House Democrats on a letter to CDC Director Walensky demanding answers about the agency’s justification for treating asylum seekers as a unique public health threat, how these expulsions are being coordinated, how asylum seekers being returned to dangerous situations are being cared for, and more. Days later, Rep. Pressley once again called on the Biden Administration to reverse the Title 42 Order and other anti-Black immigration policies.
  • On March 16, 2022, Rep. Pressley and Rep. Mondaire Jones called on Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky to fully end Title 42, cease deportations of people to Haiti and affirm their legal and fundamental human right to seek asylum.
  • On February 16, 2022, Rep. Pressley joined Congresswoman Cori Bush (MO-01), Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ), and 100 House and Senate colleagues in urging President Biden to reverse inhumane immigration policies – such as Title 42, originally introduced under the Trump Administration – that continue to disproportionately harm Black migrants.
  • On February 14, 2022, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07), alongside Representatives Judy Chu (CA-27) and Nydia Velázquez (NY-07), led 33 other House Democrats on a letter to Rochelle Walensky, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, demanding answers about the agency’s justification for treating asylum seekers as a unique public health threat, how these expulsions are being coordinated, how asylum seekers being returned to dangerous situations are being cared for, and more.
  • In April 2022, she joined her colleagues at a press conference reaffirming her support for President Biden’s decision to end Title 42. Full video of her remarks at the press conference is available here. Rep. Pressley applauded the Biden Administration’s end of Title 42 in a statement in April 2022.
  • In September 2022, Rep. Pressley and Rep. Velázquez led 54 of their colleagues on a letter calling on the Biden Administration to immediately halt deportations to Haiti and provide humanitarian parole protections for those seeking asylum. The lawmakers’ letter followed the Administration’s resumption of deportation flights to Haiti as thousands of Haitian migrants continue to await an opportunity to make an asylum claim at the border.
  • In September 2022, Rep. Pressley joined her colleagues on the House Oversight Committee in demanding answers regarding the inhumane treatment of migrants in Del Rio, Texas, by Border Patrol agents on horseback and pushing to Biden Administration to end the ongoing use and weaponization of Title 42.
  • On July 7, 2022, Rep. Pressley and Haiti Caucus Co-Chairs Reps. Andy Levin (MI-09), Val Demings (FL-10) and Yvette D. Clarke (NY-09) released a statement marking the one-year anniversary of the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse.
  • On November 21, 2021, Rep. Pressley and Senator Elizabeth Warren led the Massachusetts congressional delegation on a letter to the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) calling on them to coordinate with the government agencies of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to assist newly arrived families from Haiti.
  • On October 18, 2021, Rep. Pressley, and Haiti Caucus Co-Chairs Reps. Val Demings (FL-10), Yvette Clarke (NY-09), and Andy Levin (MI-09) issued a statement following the kidnapping of American and Canadian missionaries in Haiti.
  • On October 18, 2021, Rep. Pressley issued a statement on the civil rights complaint filed by Haitian families demanding a federal investigation into the heinous actions perpetrated by federal officials at the border.
  • On October 22, 2021, Rep. Pressley, along with Oversight Chairwoman Carolyn B. Maloney, Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD), and Reps. Rashida Tlaib (MI-13), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14), and Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), sent a letter to Troy A. Miller, the Acting Administrator of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), demanding a briefing and answers regarding press reports of the inhumane treatment of migrants in Del Rio, Texas, by Border Patrol agents on horseback.
  • On September 17, 2021, Rep. Pressley and Congresswoman Nydia M. Velázquez (NY-07) led 52 of their colleagues calling on the Biden Administration to immediately halt deportations to Haiti and take urgent action to address the concerns of the Haitian Diaspora after a 7.2 magnitude earthquake devastated Haiti.
  • On August 14, 2021, Rep. Pressley Yvette Clarke (NY-09), Andy Levin (MI-09) and Val Demings (FL-10) and Mondaire Jones (NY-17) released a statement regarding the recent earthquake in Haiti.
  • On July 14, 2021, Rep. Pressley and Haiti Caucus Co-Chairs Reps. Yvette Clarke (NY-09), Andy Levin (MI-09) and Val Demings (FL-10) sent a letter to U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas calling on him to take a series of steps to support the Haitian diaspora amid ongoing political turmoil in Haiti.
  • In July 2021, the Reps. Pressley, Clarke, Demings and Levin issued a statement condemning the assassination of President Moïse and calling for swift and decisive action to bring political stability and peace to Haiti and the Haitian people.
  • In May 2021, on Haitian Flag Day, Reps. Pressley, Levin, Clarke and Demings announced the formation of the House Haiti Caucus, a Congressional caucus dedicated to pursuing a just foreign policy that puts the needs and aspirations of the Haitian people first.
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