CWS helps Haitians apply for Temporary Protected Status, says earthquake's impact demonstrates need for U.S. immigration reform

Feelings of hope and relief were palpable among Haitians applying for Temporary Protected Status at "TPS Days" in New York, N.Y.; Lancaster, Pa., and Miami, Fla., today, three of five special immigration legal clinics being held this week at local offices and affiliates of the global humanitarian agency Church World Service.

Tara Pinkham and Haitian clients
CWS staff immigration attorney Tara Pinkham meets with Haitian clients at the TPS Day, Feb. 17 in New York City.
Photo: Carol Fouke-Mpoyo/CWS

New York – Feelings of hope and relief were palpable among Haitians applying for Temporary Protected Status at “TPS Days” in New York, N.Y.; Lancaster, Pa., and Miami, Fla., today, three of five special immigration legal clinics being held this week at local offices and affiliates of the global humanitarian agency Church World Service.

All these events plus a Citizenship Day Feb. 17 in Atlanta, Ga., and a TPS Day Feb. 19 in New Haven, Conn., are part of a nationwide CWS campaign in support of fair, humane U.S. immigration reform.  

“TPS provides short-term help to some, but Haitians and other immigrants need lasting reform to reunite separated families, protect workers and provide a pathway to legal status and eventual citizenship for undocumented immigrants,” said the Rev. John L. McCullough, Church World Service Executive Director and CEO.

Following the devastating earthquake that struck Haiti last month, the U.S government extended Temporary Protected Status to Haitians who have resided in the United States since the day of the earthquake and who meet other eligibility requirements.  TPS grantees are spared the fear of deportation to their ravaged country and allowed to live and work legally in the United States for 18 months, enabling them to contribute to the rebuilding of Haiti.

Today’s “TPS Day” in New York City was the first of three being cosponsored by CWS, Justice for Our Neighbors and Brooklyn Jubilee (next: Feb. 26 and March 4) and, like the other events around the country, were staffed by attorney volunteers.  

TPS applicants spoke of their nieces, nephews, in-laws and siblings in Haiti who need their support all the more since the January 12 earthquake.  

“Without documentation, it’s like you don’t exist in this country,” said a woman who came to the United States “21 years ago, hoping for a better life, to go to school, to have a decent job.  That didn’t happen, and I’m getting old now!  I depend on friends to call me for odd jobs.  With TPS, I’ll be able to call potential employers myself.”

Another applicant described the extended family in Haiti that relies on him for assistance.  He said that, though undocumented, he has been able to find enough work, but has been pained to not be able to visit Haiti to see family – especially his son.

Katherine F. Schulte assists a client
Volunteer Katherine F. Schulte, an attorney with Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP, assists a client at TPS Day in New York.
Photo: Carol Fouke-Mpoyo/CWS

“When I left, my son was 3.  Now he’s 21.  We’ve not seen each other all this time.  We do our best,” he said with a sigh. 

CWS-Lancaster’s TPS Day helped Haitians with TPS, citizenship and “green card” applications.  

“Lancaster has a decent-sized Haitian community, most with status but a number without,” said Janet Tisinger, immigration counselor and Cuban/Haitian Program Coordinator at the agency.  “It’s too bad this is the way it happened – no one wants an earthquake – but we wanted to get these people in the door to let them know they are eligible and can apply for TPS.”

CWS-Miami held a special TPS Day Feb. 17 at Shalom Community Church in north Miami, to supplement the information/legal clinics it holds every Friday at the church.  The office also assists Haitian clients daily at its Doral office.

In addition to helping Haitians apply for TPS, CWS is providing post-earthquake material aid and other support in Haiti, with an emphasis on supporting at-risk children and people with disabilities, and is extending services to badly injured Haitians medevaced to U.S. hospitals.

To date, CWS's Atlanta affiliate has received 45 medical evacuees including their accompaniers, and the CWS Miami Office has received 62 medical evacuees (including accompaniers), most of whom are still in its care.  The exceptions include an injured man who was released from a Miami hospital and is now recuperating in Lancaster, Pa., under the care of the CWS office there (he is accompanied by his mother), and an injured woman and her accompanier mother, who flew to Louisville, Ky., yesterday (Feb. 16) for recuperation in the care of the CWS affiliate there.

See also YouTube video "Haiti earthquake and immigration reform"

Media Contact:
Lesley Crosson, 212-870-2676, lcrosson@churchworldservice.org
Jan Dragin, 781-925-1526, jdragin@gis.net


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