Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

28,000 Haitians in U.S. Seek Protected Status

By ELIZABETH LLORENTE, The Record
More than 28,000 Haitians living in the United States, including more than 800 in New Jersey, have applied for protection from deportation since January, immigration officials say.

The Obama administration suspended deportations of Haitians who had been in the U.S. by Jan. 12, when a 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck Haiti, the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced a few days after the earthquake that undocumented Haitians would be eligible to apply for an immigration benefit known as Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, which allows those who receive it to live and work here for up to 18 months.

Immigration officials say that each week thousands of new applications have come in. The current number of 28,389 Haitian TPS applications nationwide includes more than 6,000 processed in the last week alone, said Katie Tichacek Kaplan, spokeswoman for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Immigration officials estimate that between 100,000 and 200,000 Haitians in the United States could be eligible to apply for TPS. They have until late July to apply, Kaplan said.

While USCIS did not have application numbers for New Jersey, Kaplan said that 821 Haitians have scheduled appointments to get fingerprinted, one of the first steps in applying for TPS. That is an increase of more than 300 Haitians from last week, when the number was 500.

Representatives of some organizations that are assisting Haitians in applying for TPS say they had expected more people to have come to them for help by now.

“The numbers seem pretty low,” said Amy Gottlieb, director of the Immigrant Rights Program at American Friends Service Committee in Newark. “We’re hearing that perhaps people are afraid, that they don’t trust the process yet.”

Gottlieb said a TPS clinic held last weekend in Newark by a group of organizations drew only 15 Haitians.

TPS generally is granted to undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. whose native country is stricken by such things as natural disasters and armed conflicts.

Although TPS usually is granted for 18 months, it is often extended when a certain region is determined not to have recovered to the point where it can absorb numerous deportees.

Some 53,000 people in New Jersey claim Haitian ancestry, according to the 2006-08 American Community Survey by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Meanwhile, last month, New Jersey officials opened a multi-agency resource center in Elizabeth that caters to Haitians “affected by the recent earthquake,” according to a statement by state Human Services Commissioner Jennifer Velez.

More than 28,000 Haitians living in the United States, including more than 800 in New Jersey, have applied for protection from deportation since January, immigration officials say.The Obama administration suspended deportations of Haitians who had been in the U.S. by Jan. 12, when a 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck Haiti, the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere.Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced a few days after the earthquake that undocumented Haitians would be eligible to apply for an immigration benefit known as Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, which allows those who receive it to live and work here for up to 18 months.Immigration officials say that each week thousands of new applications have come in. The current number of 28,389 Haitian TPS applications nationwide includes more than 6,000 processed in the last week alone, said Katie Tichacek Kaplan, spokeswoman for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Immigration officials estimate that between 100,000 and 200,000 Haitians in the United States could be eligible to apply for TPS. They have until late July to apply, Kaplan said.

While USCIS did not have application numbers for New Jersey, Kaplan said that 821 Haitians have scheduled appointments to get fingerprinted, one of the first steps in applying for TPS. That is an increase of more than 300 Haitians from last week, when the number was 500.

Representatives of some organizations that are assisting Haitians in applying for TPS say they had expected more people to have come to them for help by now.

“The numbers seem pretty low,” said Amy Gottlieb, director of the Immigrant Rights Program at American Friends Service Committee in Newark. “We’re hearing that perhaps people are afraid, that they don’t trust the process yet.”

Gottlieb said a TPS clinic held last weekend in Newark by a group of organizations drew only 15 Haitians.

TPS generally is granted to undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. whose native country is stricken by such things as natural disasters and armed conflicts.

Although TPS usually is granted for 18 months, it is often extended when a certain region is determined not to have recovered to the point where it can absorb numerous deportees.

Some 53,000 people in New Jersey claim Haitian ancestry, according to the 2006-08 American Community Survey by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Meanwhile, last month, New Jersey officials opened a multi-agency resource center in Elizabeth that caters to Haitians “affected by the recent earthquake,” according to a statement by state Human Services Commissioner Jennifer Velez.

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