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Biden's migrant parole program is popular in Haiti. But it seems a harder sell among Haitians here

Haiti Visa Program
Odelyn Joseph
/
AP
Haitians line up outside an immigration office in Port-au-Prince this month to apply for a passport to be eligible for the U.S. migrant parole program.

President Biden’s new parole program for migrants is a hit inside Haiti, where people there are rushing to get passports to become eligible. But policy advocates in South Florida say the effort has so far been complicated by misinformation inside the Haitian community.

"Social media here has been awash with false information," says Clarel Cyriaque, a Haitian-American immigration attorney in Miami.

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"Everything from lies that there will be dire consequences for Haitians who come here on the program, to others that their sponsors here will also face onerous risks."

The Biden parole will let 30,000 migrants a month from Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua and Haiti enter the U.S. for two years if they apply for it in their home country — and not make dangerous trips to the overwhelmed U.S. southern border and the Florida Keys. As a stick to the policy's parole carrot, migrants from those countries who enter the U.S. illegally will now be automatically expelled.

Those seeking to come in under the new program must also have a sponsor here who can support them — and that's where the confusion seems to start among Haitian-Americans in South Florida.

Many in the community who are skeptical about the parole are piling onto social media with misinformation about what being a sponsor entails.

Cyriaque has been trying to confront those bogus claims.

“People on TikTok [are] saying things like: they’re going to be looking into your bank account, into financial documents that you have to turn over, that there are complex requirements before you can ever be considered for the program, including onerous financial burdens," he said.

"I even saw one post that suggested Haitians need to go to Canada and get married before they can be eligible for the U.S. parole, ridicule stuff like that. So there’s been cynicism — as if the program was too good to be true.”

Cyriaque stresses that in fact any individual or business can sponsor a migrant for the parole and the requirements are minimal. He’s working with nonprofits like the Boston-based Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti and Washington-based Refugees International to post accurate information on their web sites for the Haitian community.

The immigration attorney believes the misinformation should dissipate once more Haitians here get involved in the sponsorship process.

“Our hope is that the proof will be in the pudding," he said, "once they can verify that this is in fact workable for them.”

The San Diego-based nonprofit Haitian Bridge Alliance and Welcome.US in Washington will also hold a webinar on the parole specifically for Haitians on Monday at 7 p.m.

On Tuesday, attorneys general from 20 Republican-led U.S. states — including Florida — filed a lawsuit in a Texas federal court challenging the legality of the Biden parole program.

Tim Padgett is the Americas editor for Miami NPR affiliate WLRN, covering Latin America, the Caribbean and their key relationship with South Florida.