Since 1960, Church World Service has helped meet the needs of people who have come to the United States in a series of large migrations, beginning with the 1960 “freedom flights” from Cuba.
Today, CWS and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops are partners in the Cuban Haitian Entrant Program, a federal program administered by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (USCIS/DHS).
The program’s purpose is to provide orderly and structured reception, processing, and resettlement services to Cuban and Haitian who meet the definition of “entrant” and to assist them attain self-sufficiency by facilitating primary and secondary resettlement services.
Subsequent to the Cuban freedom flights, CWS has dealt with such migrations as the Camarioca Exodus, Mariel Boat Lift, Cuban Guantanamo Crisis and the Haitian Boat People.
The CWS Cuban Haitian Entrant Program was a key player in serving the influx of Haitian medical evacuees after the earthquake that devastated Haiti in January 2010. These evacuees were primarily sent to Miami and Atlanta area hospitals. Due to its infrastructure and ability to react on demand, the Cuban Haitian Entrant Program was able to step up to assist these clients within hours of the request of the USCIS/DHS.
While Cubans continue to reach South Florida by sea, since 2011 the Cuban Haitian Entrant Program has encountered an increase in Cubans entering the country through the U.S. Southwest borders. These clients are leaving Cuba to various countries such as Ecuador, Costa Rica, and Mexico and then crossing various borders until they reach the United States.
Additionally, the program serves clients arriving through the Cuban Medical Professional Parolee Program. These are Cuban doctors and professionals who were serving missions outside Cuba and deserted their posts. The program also serves Cuban political parolees – political prisoners who were released from Cuban prisons to Spain.
The Cuban Haitian Entrant Program has three main components:
- Processing – an initial orientation and interview given to the client upon arrival.
- Resettlement – further orientation, referrals to local service providers, and help to achieve self-sufficiency. As part of the resettlement phase, the program offers out-of-state resettlement when clients do not have a sponsor or family in the United States. CWS provides relocation services to one of five free case resettlement sites: Louisville, Ky.; Portland, Ore; Lancaster, Pa.; Houston, Texas, and Syracuse, N.Y.
- Parolee Orientation Program (POP) – cultural orientation, assistance in the completion of the I-765 (Employment Authorization request), and referrals to the Florida Health Department’s Refugee Clinic and to the Match Grant Program at various voluntary agencies.
In FY 2012, CWS served 8,389 Cuban entrants through the program. 6,562 received cultural and community orientation; 1,190 were reunited with their families in Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties, and 637 without sponsors in Florida were helped to resettle to five other cities.