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Follow-up: Haitian Detainees

April 2, 2010

Follow-up on Haitian Detainees

Regarding our post of yesterday, on the almost three-month imprisonment of at least 30 Haitian earthquake refugees by U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement, Nina Bernstein’s follow-up article of today reports that most of the detainees have now been released. It’s likely that the action was taken primarily as a result of the two-month battle waged by the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center, with the help of law students from Yale, Columbia, and UC-Irvine, to gain the detainees’ release. Realistically, though, it probably took the New York Times investigation to finally crack open the jailhouse doors. 

Cheryl Little, FIAC’s Director, noted that the weeks of detention “only exacerbated the terrible trauma our clients had already suffered…It’s difficult to understand why they weren’t released sooner. And FIAC attorney, Allison Kent, noted that two young women have still not been released, and one of those was included on the flight to the U.S. because she needs hospital care —  which she will not get in detention. 

United Nations Development Programme

Status of Undocumented Haitians

In January, days after the earthquake, the Obama administration granted undocumented Haitians living in the United States what is called Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, on the grounds that their safety would be at risk if they were deported. TPS protects them from deportation for 18 months and allows them to work legally while here. It was expected that the status could cover as many as 130,000 Haitians living here illegally or awaiting deportation. However the ruling covered only those who were already in the country at the time of the ruling. 

In any case, as Anne Bernard earlier reported in the Times, as of mid-March — two months into the program — only 34,427 Haitians had actually applied. This may have been in part because of the hefty $500 application fee, or perhaps because the application requires extensive financial information which undocumented workers may not have or may be fearful about  supplying. Michelle Chen of RaceWire also commented that the required paperwork could be daunting and, more importantly, that “there is a very real and well-founded fear of what might happen if you make yourself or your family known to federal authorities…”

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