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The South Florida Roundup

New Cuba, Haiti immigration policy leans heavily on families and community groups

Same as it ever was. More than 100 Haitian migrants wait to be processed after landing off Key Largo this week.
David Goodhue
Miami Herald
More than 100 Haitian migrants wait to be processed after landing off Key Largo last week.

The Biden administration announced long-awaited changes to current U.S. immigration policy. Going forward, 30,000 people from Cuba, Nicaragua and Haiti will be able to enter the United States every month. They also expanded the current parole program, allowing the citizens of these three countries to work and live in the U.S. for two years if they have a sponsor.

The change will lean heavily on community groups – churches, families and friends – to help those fleeing Cuba, Haiti and Nicaragua. Without sponsors, migrants from those countries will simply not be let in, according to the Department of Homeland Security.

On the latest South Florida Roundup we spoke to Paul Christopher Namphy, a lead organizer with the Family Action Network Movement in Miami, about the effects of the new policies. The group, among other things, helps Haitian families get resettled in the US.

He said that families sponsoring family members from these countries experience massive amounts of stress.

“We've seen everything from just the difficulty of the host family to simultaneously look after their own family and the family member that they've received,” he said. “Tensions, for example, between the children of one and the children of the other, and just the psychological stress that comes with people being unable to meet their own needs.”

Namphy said the group is concerned the policy change might not benefit all Haitians – and other migrant groups – equally.

Is that going to be administered fairly? Are some of the financial constraints and requirements and limits, you know, in terms of who's going to be able to apply based on their financial situation?” he said. “You know, is that going to be discriminating against the poor?”

For many South Florida families, this influx of people from Cuba and Haiti is personal. The people coming here in search of a better life are their family members.

SFR host Daniel Rivero also spoke to Sabine – her full name has been withheld for safety reasons – to hear about her experiences.

Sabine left Haiti for the U.S. a few months ago, by plane, on a tourist visa. The dire situation in Haiti pushed her to leave the country. “Before I left in Haiti, life wasn't easy because there was always the kidnapping problem, the insecurity, and also the economic problem … It was not easy at all,” she said.

Now she is living with extended family, who are sponsoring her while she tries to get documentation to allow her to work. She said it’s hard for her to watch her fellow Haitians make the treacherous journey to Florida by boat.

“I don't even think [there’s] a word to describe how I feel when I see this, because this is not a humane situation,” she said. I also understand why people are making this trip. But at the same time, it's not normal.”

Even though Sabine flew to Florida, making her journey easier than others, she still has plenty of challenges to contend with – and her family back in Haiti still are worried about her. She’s thankful for her sponsor family helping her with shelter and resources, but, unable to work, she remains dependent on them.

“Psychologically, it's not a good situation because in Haiti, I was working, and I was like an independent person… But now I am like children, waiting for someone to take care of my needs.

On the show, WLRN’s Americas Editor, Tim Padget, and Miami Herald’s Keys reporter David Goodhue spoke in detail about the Biden administration’s policy changes and what they mean to migrants and to Florida. We also spoke to Amy Driscoll, the Miami Herald’s Deputy Editorial Page Editor, about broken promises by politicians in Miami-Dade County.

Listen to the full episode above.

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Natu Tweh is WLRN's Morning Edition Producer. He also reports on general news out of South Florida.