Haitians seeking temporary status swarm church
By Hank Tester
January 19, 2010
"This is a real big deal," said Francesca Jean, a young Haitian woman who wants to be a doctor. "I can get a job, legally." She was one of about 500 Haitians who swarmed the Notre Dame D'Haiti Catholic Church in Miami's Little Haiti Monday. Volunteer immigration lawyers, several from the Haitian American Bar Association, were providing assistance to get the TPS process going.
TPS stands for Temporary Protected Status and allows, in this case, undocumented Haitians the ability to stay in the United States and legally work. Haitians and their political allies had fought for the status for years, but politics always got in the way. The argument was it was too dangerous and economically unjust to send Haitian back home. That plea never carried the day until the Obama Administration reversed U.S. immigration policy. The earthquake disaster at home brought immigration relief here.
Estimates are there could be 30,000 Haitians eligible for TPS in South Florida. If they fill out the proper government paper work they will be allowed to stay in the States for 18 months.
The idea is productive Haitians stateside will be able to send money home to help rebuild their country. "I can do tile, I can paint, I could do plumbing, I do a lot of things," one man said. "If I have my papers I can work, and I can send money back home."
Many at the information meeting had lost close relatives. "I need to help my family, I lost one of my kids," said one young man.
The U.S. Government has yet to provide the formal application papers and the lawyers do not know when or where they will be filed.
"The process is complicated. Individuals should see the assistance of attorneys and qualified agencies with experience in immigration matters to ensure timely processing and prevent fraud," said Randy McGorarty, Director of Catholic Services. But for sure Haitians in legal limbo now have status. The immigration heat is off.
"A long time coming," said "Julio," who was helping his wife with her status. "I spent a lot of money on immigration for her, but all they did was delay her and she never could go to work." Now she can.
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