The Plight of Haitians Two Years After the Earthquake

Newsletter  |  Winter 2013
Vol. 17, Issue No. 1

On January 11, 2013, in Washington D.C., AI Justice, in partnership with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (“USCCB”), hosted a day-long symposium entitled The Haitian Diaspora: Addressing the Plight of Haitians in the United States and the Caribbean at the law firm Jones Day.  AI Justice’s Executive Director Cheryl Little and Children’s Legal Project Director Michelle Abarca were among the panelists.

The symposium was attended by over fifty advocates from around the country.  Panelists included half a dozen senior government officials from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the State Department, and the Office of Refugee Resettlement, as well as high-ranking UN High Commissioner for Refugee officials.  They discussed challenges and developed solutions on issues ranging from Haitian family reunification to reception, detention, and deportation of Haitians.

Obama Administration officials included: Kelly Ryan, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy, DHS; Mitiku Ashebir, Director of Refugee Assistance, Office of Refugee Resettlement, Department of Health and Human Services; Andrea Samuelson, Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration; Esther Olavarria, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security for Policy, DHS; and Thomas C. Adams, Special Coordinator for Haiti, U.S. Department of State.

Other panelists included senior staff from the USCCB, Catholic Relief Services, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, and the Catholic Legal Immigration Network.

Next steps for a proactive agenda include the formation of a Haiti advocacy working group, stepped up policy collaboration between USCCB and AI Justice, and action on shared policy objectives like permitting Haitian family members whose I-130 petition has been approved to join their loved ones in the United States while they wait for their visas.

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AI Justice is an award-winning non-profit law and advocacy firm that protects and promotes the basic human rights of immigrants. In Florida and on a national level, we champion the rights of unaccompanied immigrant children; advocate for survivors of trafficking and domestic violence; serve as a watchdog on immigration detention practices and policies; and speak for immigrant groups who have particular and compelling claims to justice.