Haitians will no longer be eligible for U.S. visas given to low-skilled workers, the Trump administration said on Wednesday, bringing an end to a small-scale effort to employ Haitians in the United States after a catastrophic 2010 earthquake.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced the change less than a week after President Donald Trump reportedly questioned in an Oval Office meeting why the United States would want to take in immigrants from Haiti and African nations, referring to them as “shithole” countries. Trump has denied using that word.
DHS said in a regulatory filing that it was removing Haiti from lists of more than 80 countries whose citizens can be granted H-2A and H-2B visas, given to seasonal workers in agriculture and other industries.
It cited what it said were “high levels of fraud and abuse” by Haitians with the visas and a “high rate of overstaying the terms” of their visas.
A DHS report published last year stated that Haitians on a variety of non-immigrant visas, including H-2As and H-2Bs, had a roughly 40 percent visa overstay rate in the 2016 fiscal year.
Belize and Samoa were also removed from the lists, for risks stemming from human trafficking and not taking back nationals ordered removed from the United States, respectively.
Just a few dozen Haitians entered the United States on the visas each year since they were given permission to do so in 2012 by the Obama administration, according to DHS data.
Sixty-five Haitians entered the United States on H-2A visas, given for agricultural work, in the 2016 fiscal year, according to DHS data, and 54 Haitians were granted H-2A visas by the State Department between March and November 2017. 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.
Supporters of the visas say they gave Haitians a rare opportunity to work legally in the United States, contribute to the U.S. economy, and help fund the recovery of Haiti after the earthquake, which killed more than 200,000 people.
“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. “Even though not many people have been able to avail themselves of it, it’s been hugely transformational for those who have participated.”
The Haitian embassy in the United States did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Officials in Haiti were not immediately available for comment.
Demonstrators hold up Haitian flags and shout as the motorcade of U.S. President Donald Trump passes in West Palm Beach, Florida, U.S., January 15, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
In an interview with Reuters on Wednesday, Trump praised Haitians.
“I love the people. There’s a tremendous warmth,” he said. “And they’re very hard-working people.”
Humanitarian groups and Republican and Democratic members of Congress lobbied the Obama administration to make Haiti eligible for the short-term worker visas, arguing that remittances to family in Haiti would help the country recover from the earthquake. Without H-2A and H-2B visas, there are few legal avenues for most Haitians to go to the United States.
“The post-earthquake reconstruction efforts ignored migration and remittances entirely,” said Michael Clemens, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development who was heavily involved in the efforts to allow Haitian workers to come to the United States. “We saw it as an opportunity to help Haiti rebuild after the earthquake.”
The Obama administration added Haiti to the list of approved countries in 2012, and PTP Consulting stepped in to screen and match Haitian workers with farmers in the United States.
In countries with more experience sending workers to the United States, such as Jamaica, the home-country government typically does much of that work and regulates the H-2A process heavily, Williamson said.
Jon Hegeman, who operates a commercial greenhouse in Alabama, brought in eight Haitian H-2A workers in 2015 through the consultancy, and nine workers in 2016.
Before Hegeman hired Haitians, his business had trouble finding local workers. Within a three-month period, they went through 300 people for eight positions, he said. When he was approached by PTP to participate in the program, he agreed.
“These guys were awesome. They worked hard, you see a smile on their face every day,” said Hegeman, who as the child of a missionary was born and largely raised in the Dominican Republic, which neighbors Haiti. “We’ve changed or impacted communities in Haiti.”
He said he would escort his workers to the airport in order to make sure they left the United States when their visas ran out.
“That was one of my biggest concerns,” he said. “We had zero visa overstays.”
Williamson said PTP was able to ensure the return to Haiti of every worker that came through its program, but said other companies applying for H-2A visas for Haitians may not have been as scrupulous.
Trump Tweets About an ‘Insecure’ and ‘Biased’ Oprah Winfrey Over Her ’60 Minutes’ Segment
Oprah Winfrey in a 60 minutes segment with a voter focus group on America’s political divide. (Photo Courtesy of CBS News).
Donald Trump venting over the FBI and the Russia investigation took to Twitter on Sunday night in a tweetstorm attack on Oprah Winfrey following her “60 Minutes” segment on America’s political divide. Despite his denial of spending time watching television, his response to Winfrey stated otherwise.
“Just watched a very insecure Oprah Winfrey, who at one point I knew very well, interview a panel of people on 60 Minutes,” tweeted Trump, “The questions were biased and slanted, the facts incorrect. Hope Oprah runs so she can be exposed and defeated just like all of the others!”
Just watched a very insecure Oprah Winfrey, who at one point I knew very well, interview a panel of people on 60 Minutes. The questions were biased and slanted, the facts incorrect. Hope Oprah runs so she can be exposed and defeated just like all of the others!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 19, 2018
Winfrey’s report followed up her September segment featuring the same panel of Trump voters and non-Trump voters in the battleground state of Michigan. The goal of the segment was to understand their thoughts on his presidency and direction of the country one year after he took office.
In the wake of Winfrey’s historic #MeToo speech during the Golden Globes in January, an #Oprah2020 movement took root, with many stars – including Meryl Streep and Steven Spielberg – calling on Winfrey to consider running. Days later, Trump addressed the speculation, telling the press, “Yeah, I’ll beat Oprah.”
In 1999, Trump thought Winfrey would be a good running mate. At the time Trump said: “I know her very well. You know, I did one of her last shows. She had Donald Trump – this was before politics – her last week, and she had Donald Trump and my family. It was very nice.”
Oprah Winfrey, despite earlier rumors of a presidential bid, has been clear that she has no intention of running for president. Making it clear on her intentions she said in a 60 Minutes overtime clip separate from Sunday’s report. “If God actually wanted me to run, wouldn’t God kind of tell me?”
Dodge MLK Super Bowl Ad Sparks Controversy
A Dodge Super Bowl ad has attracted criticism for its use of a sermon by Martin Luther King Jr. to sell trucks.
The ad featured a section of King’s The Drum Major Instinct sermon delivered February 4, 1968, overtop images of American patriotism, including America’s military and other service jobs like teachers and firefighters.
“If you want to be important—wonderful. If you want to be recognized—wonderful. If you want to be great—wonderful. But recognize that he who is greatest among you shall be your servant,” King is heard saying in the ad. “That’s a new definition of greatness.”
The ad, which ran in support of the Ram Nation volunteer program, also featured images of Dodge trucks. On airing, it began to get immediate blowback.
“The use of MLK to promote Ram trucks strikes many people as crass and inappropriate,” Tim Calkins, a marketing professor at Northwestern University told the Associated Press.
Here is #DrumMajorInstinct in its entirety. Learn about #MLK from him. Please listen to/read his speeches, sermons and writings. Understand his comprehensive teachings and his global perspective. Study his nonviolent philosophy. It’s more than a tactic. https://t.co/56fiF8r6iP
— Be A King (@BerniceKing) February 5, 2018
Bernice A. King, the youngest child of the civil rights leader and his wife Coretta Scott King urged people to listen to the sermon “in its entirety.”
“Please listen to/read his speeches, sermons, and writings. Understand his comprehensive teachings and his global perspective. Study his nonviolent philosophy. It’s more than a tactic,” she tweeted, providing a link to the sermon.
A social media user took that message to heart and created a different version of the ad with King’s warning to his congregation from the same sermon that advertisers pressure them to buy more than they can afford, playing on their selfishness and the “drum major instinct” that pushes them to prove that they are better than others.
OMG someone overlayed that ridiculous Dodge/MLK ad with what King actually said about capitalism and car commercials pic.twitter.com/9IB528mCyt
— Astead (@AsteadWesley) February 5, 2018
King said: “They have a way of saying things to you that kind of gets you into buying. In order to be a man of distinction, you must drink this whiskey. In order to make your neighbors envious, you must drive this type of car. In order to be lovely to love, you must wear this kind of lipstick or this kind of perfume. And you know, before you know it, you’re just buying that stuff (…) That’s the way the advertisers do it.”
King said people end up living “their lives trying to outdo the Joneses” rather than building communities around themselves.
The Dodge ad also appeared to some to contradict what King stood for as he famously argued for U.S. military spending to be cut and instead go to programs that served the poorest Americans.
“Are MLK’s words really being used right now to sell cars?” wrote Nicholas Thompson, the editor-in-chief of Wired magazine in response to the ad on Twitter.
The King Center distanced itself from the ad, pointing out it was not responsible for approving the use of King’s image and words,
Fiat Chrysler said it worked with King’s estate on the ad, which licenses King’s image and speeches, and is run by King’s son Dexter Scott King. The estate’s managing director, Eric D. Tidwell, said in a statement early Monday: “We found that the overall message of the ad embodied Dr. King’s philosophy that true greatness is achieved by serving others. Thus we decided to be a part of Ram’s ‘Built To Serve’ Super Bowl program.”
Three Questions About the FISA Court Answered
The E. Barrett Prettyman Federal Courthouse houses the FISA court. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci).
On Feb. 2, President Donald Trump allowed the release of the previously classified “Nunes memo.” The memo, written by Republican congressional aides, criticized information used as the basis for a FISA court surveillance application related to the Mueller probe into Russia’s possible involvement in the 2016 election.
But what exactly is the FISA court? And how does it work?
- When was the FISA court established?
Congress passed FISA or the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act in 1978. FISA was originally introduced by Democratic Sen. Ted Kennedy. The act was largely a response to President Richard Nixon’s misuse of federal resources to investigate U.S. citizens.
Its purpose was to provide oversight for foreign intelligence surveillance activities. These might include tracing telephone and email use, conducting physical searches or accessing business records. FISA lays out guidelines and procedures for these activities.
FISA applies only to “foreign powers” and “agents of foreign powers.” Basically, this means that FISA is used to gather information about people who work for the governments of other countries. Investigators are typically not allowed to target U.S. citizens under FISA. In fact, if information about a U.S. citizen is accidentally discovered, the law requires those records to be destroyed.
There are some notable exceptions. One is when the discovered information shows that there is a threat of death or serious harm to another person. Another is that officials can wiretap U.S. citizens while they are overseas. Importantly, FISA warrants can also be requested to monitor U.S. citizens believed to be acting on behalf of a foreign power.
As part of FISA, Congress established the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, or FISA court.
The FISA court is a U.S. federal court whose purpose is to review and rule on search warrant requests made under FISA. Each year, the FISA court is required to provide a report to Congress of its activities. These reports include the number of requests made under FISA, but not the content of those requests. That content is not a matter of public record.
- How is FISA court different from other courts?
FISA court is not like a typical criminal court.
First, Department of Justice officials seeking a warrant do not need to show evidence that a crime has occurred or is about to happen. That sort of evidence, also known as probable cause, would be needed to obtain a typical search warrant in criminal court. Instead, officials only need to provide evidence that the target of surveillance is a foreign power or agent of a foreign power.
Second, investigators can conduct surveillance for up to a year without a court order if authorized by the president. For this to occur, the U.S. Attorney General has to certify to the court that there is minimal risk that the investigation will turn up information about U.S. citizens. The U.S. Attorney General must also certify to the court that the target of the investigation is a foreign power or an agent of a foreign power. These requirements parallel what Department of Justice officials would need to demonstrate in FISA court in order to obtain a FISA court warrant.
Third, the FISA court is closed to the public. Unlike a criminal court, there is no jury and the government is the only party present. In other words, FISA court proceedings do not involve prosecutors and defense attorneys arguing on behalf of clients. The FISA court is simply hearing the requests of officials seeking search warrants. This is very similar to what happens when local law enforcement officials seek a search warrant.
However, FISA court records are not open to the public. In rare cases, some records have been released with redacted information. The U.S. president also has the authority to declassify information at his discretion. This is different from normal police investigations, where search warrants generally become public record unless sealed by a judge.
The eleven FISA judges are selected from across the U.S. federal circuits. These judges may serve for a maximum of seven years. Since not all judges are required at any one time, FISA court judges perform their duties on a rotating basis. They don’t serve full time on the FISA court.
One similarity to a typical criminal court is that an appeals process is available. If a FISA court judge denies a search request, that judge must explain the reasons for the denial. Then, a panel of three federal judges appointed by the chief justice reviews the search request. This panel is called the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review. If the request is again denied, the U.S. Supreme Court has the authority to review the decision. There is no option for appeal by the person being investigated because he or she is unaware of the surveillance.
- How many cases does the FISA court handle?
In 2016, the FISA court reviewed 1,485 requests for surveillance. While higher than the number of requests reviewed in 2014 (1,379) and 2015 (1,457), the number of requests has remained at 1,200 or higher since 2001.
It is rare for these requests to be denied. Of the requests made in 2016, only 34 were rejected. In most years, no requests were denied.
Since the proceedings of the court are secret, it is unclear why these denials occurred or why so few cases were denied.
It is also unclear how the current controversy over the Nunes memo will affect FISA operations in the future, if at all.
Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice, Pennsylvania State University—Lacey Wallace contributed to this report. Wallace does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Source: The Conversation
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