Helping Haitian Immigrants Live and Work Legally in the CityEven before the devastating earthquake, thousands of Haitians relied on money sent from family in the City, and now that support is more crucial than ever.
The federal government has given undocumented Haitians the opportunity to file for Temporary Protected Status (TPS), which will allow them to live and work here legally for 18 months, so they can send remittances to desperate family and friends. The Fund for New Citizens
in The New York Community Trust has made $100,000
in emergency grants to help three agencies that are offering free legal assistance to poor, fearful, undocumented Haitians who are already in the United States and can’t return to Haiti and must apply for TPS by July 21.
Applying for TPS is not easy and often complicated by lack of identification and proof of income. In addition, small mistakes in the application process can result in denial. Poor applicants need immediate, competent, and free legal help to get through the process safely. But the many lawyers eager to volunteer often don’t have expertise in immigration law and must be trained, their services coordinated, and their availability advertised in a short period of time.
“Coming out of hiding as an undocumented immigrant and applying for Temporary Protected Status is a serious decision, and Haitian immigrants need lawyers who can explain the benefits and possible risks,” said Kathleen Masters, the deputy executive director of CAMBA.
In the rush to apply, immigrants who don’t speak English are more easily tricked into paying exorbitant fees or paying for help from lawyers with no experience in immigration law. Fortunately, there are legal services providers who have the expertise and the ability to train and coordinate services.
grant to Brooklyn Defender Services
is supporting its Haitian Legal Relief Project, which held a training session on TPS on February 3 that drew more than 200 attorneys. The funding is enabling the agency to help 3,000 people apply for TPS and file petitions to bring family members to the U.S. from Haiti temporarily. It will also conduct three workshops and coordinate fifteen legal clinics in the heart of Brooklyn’s Haitian community.
grant to CAMBA
, a multi-service organization based in the heart of the Haitian community in Flatbush, Brooklyn, is enabling the agency to help 1,500 undocumented Haitians. CAMBA will hold individual meetings and group workshops about the TPS application process in churches, the Haitian Family Reception Center, and at offices of other community groups.Originally established in 1987 with support from the Fund for New Citizens, the New York Immigration Coalition
is using a grant of $10,000
to act as a clearing house of TPS-related information for nonprofits, law schools, lawyers, and the government, sharing information about services, events, volunteer opportunities, and contact information.
“The clock is ticking, and there are up to 25,000 Haitians eligible for this status in the City,” says Joyce Bove, The Trust’s senior vice president for programs and special projects. “It is clear that the most immediate need is well-coordinated help applying for Temporary Protected Status in neighborhoods like Flatbush, Crown Heights, and Canarsie, where the majority of New York’s Haitian immigrants live.”