Biden restores Haiti to guest worker visa programs, reversing Trump-era move despite overstay concerns

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The Biden administration on Wednesday moved to restore Haiti to the list of eligible countries for two guest worker visa programs, reversing its Trump-era removal due to a larger number of overstays and instances of fraud and that the Biden administration says “remain a concern.”

In a notice in the Federal Register, the Department of Homeland Security said it is adding Haiti to the list of countries eligible for the H-2A visa program for temporary agricultural workers and H-2B visa program for seasonal non-agricultural worker — and cited its acceptance of its own deported nationals as a reason for the move.

Migrants are released from United States Border Patrol custody at a humanitarian center, Wednesday, Sept. 22, 2021, in Del Rio, Texas. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

“The Government of Haiti has been a valued partner, and consistently cooperated on accepting the return of its nationals subject to a final order of removal which proceeded almost uninterrupted throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, despite the political, environmental, and economic challenges facing Haiti,” the notice said.

The notice also claimed that admitting Haiti “serves the U.S. interest and is consistent with the whole-of-government efforts to address the root causes of irregular migration and create lawful pathways for a safe, orderly, and legal migration.”

DHS said that adding Haiti to the list will “provide Haitians the opportunity not only to contribute to the U.S. economy, but also apply their earnings and technical experience to advance Haiti’s reconstruction and stabilization.”

The Biden administration has been blaming root causes, such as poverty, corruption and violence, for the enormous spike in illegal migration to the border under its watch. More than 1.7 million migrants were encountered in fiscal year 2021. In September, the administration faced a surge of Haitian nationals to the border, with thousands gathered under a bridge in Del Rio, Texas.

The Trump administration removed Haiti from the list of countries eligible for the two visa programs in 2018, with DHS at that time saying that “Haitian nationals applying for H-2A and H-2B visas present extremely high rates of refusal, and those issued H-2A or H-2B visas have historically demonstrated high levels of fraud and abuse and a high rate of overstaying the terms of their H-2 admission.”

The Biden administration said it shares the concerns about overstays, but believes that the benefits outweigh those concerns.

“While some factors, including nonimmigrant visa overstay and refusal rates that precipitated Haiti’s removal from H-2A and H-2B programs in 2018 remain a concern, the foregoing favorable factors in the U.S. interest outweigh these concerns,” the notice says.

The Biden administration had granted Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to Haitian immigrants in May, given the ongoing security concerns, poverty and human rights abuses in the country.

In the Wednesday notice, the administration also added Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cyprus, the Dominican Republic, Mauritius, and Saint Lucia to the list of eligible countries — while removing Moldova because it no longer meets the regulatory standards. 

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