A few days after the earthquake, the U.S. government decided that Haitians living in the United States would be eligible for Temporary Protected Status, or TPS. However, there has been much confusion about who can apply, how you apply and what happens after you apply for TPS.
For example, only Haitians who were living in the United States before the earthquake are eligible for TPS. As Alicia Zuckerman discovered, some Haitians refer to TPS as “Ti Pelen Sosyal”– Kreyol for “L’il Social Trap”– because they fear that they may be deported if they apply.
Others see it as their only chance to legally take advantage of many opportunities in the United States.
The government predicted that up to 200,000 Haitians living in the United States could be eligible, but as of January, 2011, with the application deadline a week away, just under 62,000 have applied. (The original deadline was in July. At that time, there were 55,000 applicants. Government immigration officials say the deadline was extended in hopes of attracting more applicants.) So why are the numbers so low? Fees, fraud, and most importantly, fear, according to Cheryl Little of the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center [update: now called Americans for Immigrant Justice]. Little and other immigrant advocates have been urging all eligible Haitians to apply before the application period ends, since this may be their only chance to stay in the country legally. However TPS is temporary, and whether the TPS period will continue to be extended for Haitians (as it has for Nicaraguans and Hondurans) or eventually expire (as it did for Rwandans and Bosnians) remains to be seen.
Under the Sun co-host and senior producer Alicia Zuckerman collected the stories of Haitians traveling down the long and winding road to TPS in the six months after the earthquake. Click on the player above to listen to what they found on that path.
UPDATE, ONE YEAR AFTER THE QUAKE:
Luders, the man who was hoping he’d be eligible for TPS in spite of his traffic offenses, has learned that he is not eligible.
His wife is a U.S. citizen. She has petitioned on his behalf, so they are trying to raise the money to apply through that route, which is considerably more expensive. Luders and his wife are not sure if they’ll be able to raise the money.
In this piece, immigration attorney Cheryl Little says she cannot imagine a scenario in which the U.S. would deport Haitians any time soon. Six months later, after several years of a moratorium on all deportations to Haiti, the government now says it is resuming deportations of people with criminal backgrounds. (At the moment, this does not apply to Luders.)
The application period for TPS is scheduled to end January 18, 2011.