Contributions by: Peggy Gleason, Yen Le, Kristina Karpinski, and James Porter
“On a recent visit to Miami to teach at a CLINIC training, I was impressed all over again by the great work of the Miami Catholic Charities immigration legal services,” says Peggy Gleason, Training and Legal Support Attorney for CLINIC. The program is located at ground zero for the multitude of Haiti assistance efforts that have sprung up since the January 12 earthquake. A third of the more than twenty people who work at the immigration program are Haitian in origin.
The largest population of Haitians in the United States is in the Miami area, with New York and Boston following as centers of the immigrant population. Everyone has relatives who were hurt by the devastating damage of the quake, which the government there estimates killed approximately 230,000 people and has dislocated almost the entire population of Haiti.
After the quake, the Catholic Charities Legal Services program in Miami sprang into action. Even before the Federal Register publication on January 21, 2010 of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Haitians, Catholic Charities was running workshops to inform the local population of the requirements (the notice on TPS had been released in advance) and proper filing information. The program’s activities have received extensive press, television and radio coverage since the TPS program began. The Archdiocesan legal services staff immediately set up offices at Notre Dame d’Haiti church in the Little Haiti neighborhood of Miami, and began intake and information sessions by mid-January.
Miami’s Archbishop John Clement Favalora has taken a very active role in support of Haiti over the years. He immediately announced Archdiocesan support for disaster relief and TPS, and designated $100,000 in Archdiocesan funds for Haiti relief even before fundraising began.
Other affiliates have also been up to the task in this great time of need. Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Boston (CCAB) mobilized quickly in the aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti to provide free legal immigration assistance to the large Haitian community in the Boston area. The agency has partnered with private attorneys and other legal service providers to assist Haitians in appling for TPS and to provide legal consultations. CCAB has already held five TPS workshops and provided services to over 600 people. The first workshop took place on January 22nd, only a day after the registration period for TPS began. Additional workshops are already scheduled and more will likely be planned throughout the TPS registration period.
Additionally, Catholic Charities of Washington, DC is reaching far and wide to ensure that all eligible Haitians have an opportunity to apply for TPS. The outpouring of support from volunteers, parishes, and law firms has been incredible. They have run a number of weekend workshops near DC and on the eastern shore of Maryland.
Many of the people seeking assistance at the workshops were not eligible for TPS because they had entered the U.S. after the earthquake, including mothers of U.S. citizen children who were allowed to accompany their young sons or daughters out of Haiti. These women are now here without work authorization or a long term legal immigration solution. It has been difficult to tell them the news that they are not eligible for temporary protection here, especially after hearing about their horrible experiences in Haiti.
Our thoughts and prayers continue to go out to those affected by this devastating event, and CLINIC is proud of the outstanding work being done across the country by organizations like those mentioned above.