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Charlotte Amalie
Saturday, May 18, 2024
HomeNewsArchivesHaitians Get Special Immmigration Status in U.S.

Haitians Get Special Immmigration Status in U.S.

Haitians living in the U.S. illegally are getting a breather, at least for the next 18 months.

The Obama administration extended a special status on Jan. 15 to Haitians living illegally in the United States that protects them from deportation for 18 months and allows them to work in the U.S.

Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano said she was granting the designation, known as temporary protected status, or TPS, for Haitian immigrants because their safety would be at risk if they were deported, as the New York Times reported.

In an effort to explain the status and to the local Haitian community, the Haitian Association of the Virgin Islands will hold a Town Hall meeting at 2 p.m. Saturday at the group’s donation center at Four Winds Plaza.

Hans Oriol, association vice-president, announced the meeting at Thursday’s Government House gathering of local agencies giving aid to Haiti.

Oriol said Friday that he, association president Oskar Lalanne and businessman Gerard Bateau have been going through neighborhoods with large Haitian populations – Smith Bay, Nadir, Contant and Bovoni – urging the residents to come to Saturday’s meeting.

Oriol said Leslie Meeker, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services field office director, will distribute applications for temporary protective status at the meeting and explain how the temporary status affects the Haitians.

"She will help us in disseminating information on the process," Oriol said. He estimates St. Thomas has anywhere between 2,000 and 4,000 Haitians.

"The estimate might be high," he said, "because it’s a migrating population."

The Source was unable to reach Meeker for comment Friday

The association, with temporary headquarters in the gym next to the pet shop at Four Winds, has been accepting donations since the catastrophic earthquake, which destroyed Port-au-Prince, killed uncounted thousands and left millions homeless, with no food, water or shelter.

"Right now," he said, "our priority is for medical supplies – bandages, antibiotics, pain medication, crutches, antiseptic, gloves. We are sending all those items to the Virgin Islands Haitian Medical and Children’s Relief Trip, which is flying in medical staff and supplies now."

The trip is the private mission started by local resident Carmen Partridge, which has been successful in sending continuing flights to Port-au-Prince, carrying doctors, nurses and supplies for the past week.

Oriol said the response to the drive at Four Winds has been "very good." Though the emphasis is on medical items now, they are still accepting food, clothing, blankets, tents, mosquito spray, flashlights with working batteries.

"Anything that will be useful, we need," he said.

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