Haitians rush to secure passports
Hundreds are flocking daily to the sole immigration office, pressing against the bright blue gate as they strain to hear whether their name is called, hoping they will soon be chosen to live legally in the U.S. under a new immigration plan.
The crowd has swelled ever since President Joe Biden announced Thursday 5 that the U.S. will accept 30,000 people a month from Haiti, Nicaragua, Cuba and Venezuela.
Those selected will be entitled to work for two years if they have eligible sponsors and pass background checks. Those selected also will need a passport to travel, prompting the daily rush at the immigration office at Lalue Boulevard in Port-au-Prince.
“I’m here to leave Haiti, but I don’t want to risk my life via a boat,” said Jennifer Leonard, a 30-year-old teacher, referring to how dozens of Haitian migrants smuggled aboard boats have died in recent attempts to reach the U.S.
“It would be nice to leave with my two kids for them to have a future, but I’m not willing to take the risk of 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 U.S. instead of joining the tens of thousands of Haitians who have been intercepted at the U.S.-Mexico border and deported.
On Wednesday, an aggressive crowd gathered at the immigration office under a brutal sun to apply for a passport, pick one up, renew an existing one or check on the status of an application.