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Haitian Children and Parents Still In Limbo A Year After Quake

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MIAMI (CBS4) -The tears offer mute testimony for Fritz and Mary and their two young daughters. The family sat down at the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center in Miami Wednesday. One year ago they sat in their home and then ran for their lives as a massive earthquake forced them to flee for their lives.

Now U.S. immigration law and poorly defined legal status, their advocates say, could send them back to Haiti. A translator spoke for Mary and told reporters on her behalf, “We are really concerned about our children. We love our children and want to help our children.”

More than 1100 Haitian children were paroled into the U.S. after the earthquake. Many have found new homes, but dozens of them, probably more because numbers are hard to come by, are still in limbo. The aftershocks go on in so many ways. Marleine Bastien is the director of the Haitian Women of Miami. She said, “Some of them (earthquake victims) are stiff suffering post traumatic stress syndrome, especially the younger children.”

Immigration advocates ask two chief things. One, they want federal officials to stop deporting anyone to Haiti given the living conditions there at this time. There is no indication they will get that wish.

Number two, they want to start a program to allow 55,000 Haitians to be paroled into the U.S. on already approved visa petitions. Indeed, they told reporters, some of the pending parolees have been waiting for 10 years to leave Haiti. Advocates also pointedly note that a family reunification program is already in place for Cuban families.

Cheryl Little is a longtime immigration advocate and she heads the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center. She said, “The fact that the (Obama) Administration has not budged on the issue, we believe, is a painful reminder of a double standard. We should not be here today having to beg the administration to grant parole to these 55,000 Haitians who have done everything right and nothing wrong.”

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