Advocates in Philadelphia say they’re having a hard time convincing some people that the government’s open door isn’t a trap.
The earthquake in Haiti has temporarily opened a door for Haitians in the United States to live and work legally here. But advocates in Philadelphia say they’re having a hard time convincing some people that the government’s open door isn’t a trap.
Haitians who were in the U.S. when the earthquake hit qualify for temporary protected status. Advocates say it’s a chance for Haitians to earn money legally to support themselves and family back home while Haiti is rebuilding. Voffee Jabateh leads the African Cultural Alliance in Southwest Philadelphia and also counsels Caribbean nationals in the U.S. He says some illegal immigrants worry that temporary protected status is a ploy to gather their documents and return them to Haiti when the 18-month reprieve is over.
Jabateh: It would be better if you apply for TPS and begin to resolve your issues and probably find some work to do and bring your status up to date, including getting work permits, social security numbers and those things that make you move forward.
Temporary protected status was not set up as an alternative path to citizenship. But Jabateh is from Liberia and during the conflict in his home country many Liberians who qualified for temporary protected status found legal ways to remain in the U.S.
Desiree Wayne works for the Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians and says her group will help work-eligible Haitians find employment.
Wayne: Now is just not the time to forcefully repatriate those people. Allowing them to stay here and allowing them to work will give them an opportunity to help themselves here and help their countrymen who remain in that terrible situation.
Wayne says applying for temporary protected status can be complicated and many people will need legal assistance. Several groups are helping in the Philadelphia region.
HIAS and Council Migration Service
Catholic Social Services
Nationalities Service Center
To learn more about temporary protected status for Haitians visit the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service Web site. www.uscis.gov 1-800-375-5283.