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#3020: Miami Herald 3/27 (fwd)

From: Merrill Smith <advocacy@bellatlantic.net>


Published Monday, March 27, 2000, in the Miami Herald 


Attorney General Reno has the authority to correct this mistake.

More than a year ago, Congress passed the Haitian Refugee Immigration
Fairness Act, giving thousands of Haitians who fled military
dictatorship the opportunity to apply for amnesty in this country.
Officials from the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service took the
fairness out of the law, however, by issuing the amnesty's final
guidelines last week -- seven days before the law expires.

Attorney General Janet Reno, who oversees INS, should not allow the
agency's callous behavior to kill the dream of these immigrants.
Granted, Ms. Reno cannot change the deadline, which is set by law, but
she has the authority to correct a potentially enormous mistake -- and
she should use it.

Ms. Reno should issue an emergency rule that would allow those eligible
-- estimated to be 25,000 -- to file skeletal applications before the
Friday deadline. They would provide supporting materials and fees later.
Then, they should be given at least a year to submit fees, waivers or
documentation. Those who filed under the interim guidelines should be
given an additional year to submit supporting documentation. Those who
had their application denied because it was incomplete also should be
given additional time to submit the necessary material.

The INS adopted a similar policy in 1996, when it allowed Haitians
paroled from Guantanamo to file skeletal applications for asylum to meet
a deadline and submit detailed claims later.

Many of the intended beneficiaries have had a tough time meeting the
requirements for this amnesty. Many of them have little formal
education, but have been asked to produce two lengthy INS application
forms, a medical examination, a copy of an asylum application, evidence
of physical presence in this country since Dec. 31, 1995, and $345 in
filing fees. Requirements for unaccompanied children are even more

Because of the deadline and those onerous requirements, about 25,000
Haitians and their U.S.-born children, through no fault of their own,
could lose this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

That's not what Congress intended when it passed the law back in 1998.

Short of any action by Ms. Reno, they'll again be looking to Congress,
where two Florida legislators introduced bills extending the deadline.
That shouldn't be necessary. Ms. Reno should be moved by the spirit of
the law. 

Copyright 2000 Miami Herald 

Merrill Smith
Haiti Advocacy, Inc.
1309 Independence Avenue SE
Washington DC 20003-2302
(202) 544-9084
(202) 547-2952 fax