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Gillibrand, Kerry, Leahy, Lautenberg, Menendez Move to Reduce Backlog of Visas for Haitians Struggling to Reunite with their Families

Press Release

Location: Washington, DC

U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), John Kerry (D-MA), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), and Robert Menendez (D-NJ) announced today that they reintroduced legislation that would allow an estimated 35,000 Haitians who already have approved immigration petitions to join their relatives in the United States. The HELP Act would also provide the opportunity to apply for work, and send money back home. The bill, authored by Senator Gillibrand, would fast-track entrance into the U.S. for Haitian children and adults whose applications have been delayed due to the quake.

"Now that the cameras have left Haiti, we can't let our compassion fade," said Senator Gillibrand. "Families here at home still fear for the safety of their relatives in Haiti. This legislation allows those with approved petitions to finally unite with their U.S. relatives as quickly as possible. We cannot leave the Haitian people behind. We must remain steadfast in our mission to see Haiti recover, overcome and succeed."

"I've heard tragic stories from many Haitians in Massachusetts who haven't seen or heard from their loved ones for months and if bureaucracy is the only thing standing in the way then we need to fix it, end of story," said Senator Kerry. "Our legislation creates a commonsense process to reunite families as quickly as possible."

"Enacting this legislation is the right thing to do, both for humanitarian reasons and for Haiti's recovery from the devastating earthquake of January 2010," said Senator Leahy. "Haitian families should be reunited through the lawful immigration process. Once they are, these Haitian families will be better equipped to help their nation rebuild."

"This bill would help the United States uphold our commitment to the people of Haiti struggling to recover from last year's tragic earthquake," said Senator Lautenberg. "Assisting Haitians whose immigration petitions are already approved would allow them to escape the devastation and reunite with their families in the United States. This is an important step we can take to reunite Haitian families and keep our commitment to Haiti's recovery."

"Unimaginable devastation on Haiti brought an outpouring of support," said Senator Menendez. "This legislation allows us to continue in that tradition -- and helps families help our neighbors in Haiti put their lives back together. We continue to stand in solidarity with them and are working to deliver assistance."

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