Published: Thu, January 18, 2018
Worldwide | By Gretchen Simon

Trump administration bars Haitians from US visas for low-skilled work

Trump administration bars Haitians from US visas for low-skilled work

"Haitian farmworkers on the H-2A visa that I have studied in Alabama added $4,000 to the US economy per worker, per month", Clemens said.

The department stated it will remove Haiti, Belize and Samoa from a list of greater than 80 nations whose residents are eligible for H-2A and H-2B visas, which often are granted for seasonal laborers in agriculture and different industries. The number of Haitians entering in 2016 on H-2B visas, which are for non-agricultural seasonal work, was more than zero but too low to report, according to DHS.

The department cited a "high rate of overstaying" and other factors for its decision on Haiti.

"Haiti has shown no improvement in these areas, and the Secretary of Homeland Security has determined, with the concurrence of the Secretary of State, that Haiti's inclusion on the 2018 H-2A and H-2B lists is no longer in the US interest", DHS said.

Supporters of the visas say they gave Haitians a rare opportunity to work legally in the United States, contribute to the USA economy and help fund the recovery of Haiti after a major quake in 2010, which killed more than 200,000 people.

DHS announced the change less than a week after President Trump in a White House meeting reportedly asked why the USA was taking immigrants from "shithole" countries like Haiti and African nations.

Trump has denied making the remarks however acknowledged utilizing "tough" language. Belize is being excluded because it is included by the United States on the list of countries that do not meet standards on human trafficking and are not making efforts to do so, the notice said.

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Approximately 40 percent of Haitians overstayed on a variety of non-immigrant USA visas, including H-2As and H-2Bs, in the 2016 fiscal year, according to a DHS report.

The protections will end on July 22, 2019. The most recent register, released by DHS on Wednesday, excluded the three countries.

"They're just cutting off the most economically beneficial visa for the Haitian people", said Sarah Williamson, founder of PTP Consulting, a Virginia-based consultancy that ran a pilot program to bring Haitians to the United States on the visas.

However, though Democratic Senator Dick Durbin said Trump used the slur, Republican lawmakers, including Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, said they could not recall the word being used.

In an interview with Reuters on Wednesday, Trump praised Haitians. "And they're very hard-working people".

Advocates of the visa program say it allows Haitians to work legally in the U.S. and help contribute to natural disaster recovery efforts. There has been a tremendous benefit from Haitian migrants to the United States, including on this particular visa.

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