St. Fort, who moved to the United States from Port-au-Prince, Haiti, 29 years ago, was among the volunteers at a free legal clinic for undocumented Haitian immigrants seeking temporary amnesty from deportation.
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In light of the recent Haitian earthquake, the U.S. government granted a temporary protection status for undocumented Haitian immigrants who had been living in the U.S. prior to the earthquake. The temporary protected status allows them to legally live and work in the U.S. for at least 18 months.
On Saturday, Stamford was among the numerous cities nationwide that hosted free-legal clinics for Haitians wishing to obtain temporary protected status.
Amy Haberman, an attorney who was the site coordinator for Saturday's legal clinic at UCONN-Stamford, said volunteers had helped 75 to 100 Haitians fill out temporary protected status forms from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. The majority of the applicants will be approved, but there are a few "red flags," such as criminal records, that could prevent some Haitian immigrants from receiving temporary protected status.
Robinson Romeus immigrated to the U.S. for "political reasons" in 1996, and his two young children were born in the country. Though he has worked in the U.S. for more than a decade, he has not obtained legal immigration status. He heard about the clinic from a friend who lives in Stamford.
"We really appreciate what the U.S. is doing for us," Romeus said.
Romeus said he lost a lot of relatives in the earthquake, and he is still nervous about the safety of family members who still live in Haiti.
"You don't know what is going to happen," he said. "It's not over. You expect something bad to come every day. It's unimaginable."
St. Fort is lucky that his family members in Haiti are still alive after the recent massive earthquake, but the natural disaster destroyed the schools and churches he formerly attended.
"I feel like my whole childhood was erased," he said.
Still, he knows it could be worse and throughout the day, he met people whose families were devastated by the earthquake.
Haberman said a 23-year-old woman whose entire immediate family had died in the earthquake had applied for temporary protected status earlier in the day.
"Nothing is going to get better (in Haiti) for a long time, and so we expect Congress to renew TPS (temporary protected status) after an 18-month period and, hopefully, for a long time after that," she said.
- By Steve Kobak, Staff Writer for the Norwalk Hour
(http://www.thehour.com/story/481820 - 02/07/2010)