HRIFA acknowledged the legitimacy of the Haitian refugee crisis by allowing some Haitians to regularize their status. Steady influxes of Haitian “boat people” began arriving in December 1972, in flight from the brutal Duvalier dictatorship. Because Duvalier was an anti-communist ally that the United States did not want to offend, the U.S. government categorized the overwhelmingly poor and black migrants as economic migrants and not as refugees, making them ineligible to receive asylum and remain in the United States. To deter future asylum seekers from Haiti, the government placed the Haitians in detention centers, jails, and prisons. Treatment of Haitians contrasted sharply with that meted out to their neighboring Cubans, who as opponents of the communist Castro government receive the greatest consideration to gain admission as refugees.
Haitians continued to face steep odds of gaining admission and permanent residency in the United States until a series of legal challenges to the U.S.’s detention policies and HRIFA required that they be released into the general population and be granted greater recognition of their status as refugees to qualify for legal permanent status.
105th CONGRESS 1st Session H. R. 3049 To adjust the immigration status of certain Haitian nationals who were provided refuge in the United States.
A BILL To adjust the immigration status of certain Haitian nationals who were provided refuge in the United States. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled . . . .
(b) Aliens Eligible for Adjustment of Status.–The benefits provided by subsection (a) shall apply to any alien who is a national of Haiti–
(1) who filed for asylum before December 31, 1995, was paroled into the United States prior to December 31, 1995, after having been identified as having a credible fear of persecution, or was paroled into the United States for emergent reasons or reasons deemed strictly in the public interest; and
(2) has been physically present in the United States for at least 1 year and is physically present in the United States on the date the application for such adjustment is filed, except an alien shall not be considered to have failed to maintain continuous physical presence by reason of an absence, or absences, from the United States for any periods in the aggregate not exceeding 180 days.
(c) Stay of Removal.–
(1) In general.–The Attorney General shall provide by regulation for an alien subject to a final order of deportation, removal, or exclusion to seek a stay of such order based on the filing of an application under subsection (a).
(2) During certain proceedings.–Notwithstanding any provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act, the Attorney General shall not order any alien to be removed from the United States, if the alien is in exclusion, deportation, or removal proceedings under any provision of such Act and raises as a defense to such an order the eligibility of the alien to apply for adjustment of status under subsection (a), except where the Attorney General has rendered a final administrative determination to deny the application.
(3) Work authorization.–The Attorney General may authorize an alien who has applied for adjustment of status under subsection (a) to engage in employment in the United States during the pendency of such application and may provide the alien with an “employment authorized” endorsement or other appropriate document signifying authorization of employment, except that if such application is pending for a period exceeding 180 days, and has not been denied, the Attorney General shall authorize such employment.
(d) Adjustment of Status for Spouses and Children.–
(1) In general.–Notwithstanding section 245(c) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, the status of an alien shall be adjusted by the Attorney General to that of an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence . . . .