On Monday, the Association of Haitian Women in Boston (AFAB) helped to coordinate a forum about the recent Temporary Protected Status (TPS) extension granted to Haitians by the United States. A panel of public officials and immigration experts gathered at the new offices of the Haitian American Public Health Initiative (HAPHI) in Mattapan to present further details to the Haitian community about this extension. Panelists included Dennis Riordan from US Customs and Immigration Service (USCIS) , State Rep. Linda Dorcena Forry, Matt Maiona from American Immigration Lawyers Association and Carline Desire, executive director of AFAB.
On May 17, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano announced the extension of TPS for roughly 48,000 Haitian nationals who currently have the designation. The extension will be effective July 23, 2011 and allows Haitian beneficiaries to remain in the U.S. an additional 18 months - through Jan. 22, 2013.
Secretary Napolitano also made an important revision to the TPS rules: eligible Haitian nationals who have continuously resided in the United States since Jan. 12, 2011, will also be able to obtain TPS through Jan. 22, 2013. This permits eligible individuals who arrived up to one year after the earthquake in Haiti to receive the protection of TPS. Haitians who are not currently in the United States will not qualify for TPS and should not attempt to enter the United States, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said in its official statement.
“This is an important day for the Haitian community because TPS provides an opportunity for people to work and [continue to] support family back home.” said Rep Forry. “Today, we have an opportunity to spread the word about this TPS extension.”
Dennis Riordan, one of the USCIS officials who was instrumental in securing this extension, described how he delivered the news to his Haitian colleague, Evens Beauchamp.
“Last week Evens walked into my office with 15 more deferred action cases. These were mothers and children who came after Jan 12 and we were doing our best to help them.”
Many Haitian nationals who came after Jan 12 only qualified for deferred action - which is when the DHS agrees not to place an individual in deportation proceedings or not to execute an order of removal. Deferred action allowed many Haitians to apply for work permits, but did not provide immigration status.
“I gave him the good news and he was overcome with emotion.”
“The real good news,” he continued, “ is for those who came after the earthquake. We have about 100 calls to make in the state, to deliver the good news that many residents can now apply for TPS.”
Matt Maiona honed in on the importance of informing the public of the truth about TPS.
“It’s crucial that we let everyone know that people who [already] have TPS, apply for this extension. We also have to ensure that people are not taken advantage of in this process. The forms are free and many organizations like AFAB and MIRA will provide TPS clinics where immigration attorneys will be available to assist applicants [at no cost].”
A TPS designee Rosly Denormé, was there to give personal testimony on the benefits of TPS.
“I filed for TPS last year when I was volunteering with AFAB. I got my papers, then got a job and was able to file my income tax this year – thanks to TPS,” she said to applause.
Haitians in the United States who are eligible to apply for TPS should go to www.uscis.gov/tps or call USCIS toll-free at 1-800-375-5283. Haitians in Massachusetts can also contact AFAB at 617-287-0096, HAPHI 617-298-8076 or the MIRA Coalition at 617-350-5480.