Marie-C. has been attending Survival English classes at HWHR since September 2009. “When I started, I could not converse with someone who spoke English,” she said. “Now, anything I need, I can ask.” Her teacher, Ruth-Marie Charles, notices Marie-C.’s sense of determination. “She has perfect attendance, and she asks a lot of questions. She pushes, and works hard to enrich herself.”
Learning English is a vital skill for Marie-C., who recently received her work authorization through the Temporary Protected Status program for previously undocumented Haitians living in the United States before the January 2010 earthquake. HWHR provided financial assistance to help Marie-C. and other clients complete the application process. “Thanks to the emergency funds that we have raised through individual donors since the earthquake, we were able to help a few of our clients with unexpected expenses and immigration fees,” said HWHR’s Executive Director Ninaj Raoul.
“Although in many cases free legal help and fee waivers were available for TPS applicants, people still have to pay $340 to obtain employment authorization,” Raoul explained, pointing out that this payment amount an be a hardship since applicants usually don’t have a steady income.
While Temporary Protected Status brought some relief at first, uncertainty mounts each day for Marie-C. She is currently looking for work and housing. She wants to be able to support her three children in Haiti, ages 27, 21, and 14, who narrowly survived the earthquake when the house they were living in collapsed. Several of her family members died in the earthquake and its aftermath, including her mother. The losses Marie-C is coping with are shared by many of HWHR’s clients.
TPS provides some opportunities for those who were living out-of-status to work and apply for benefits such as Medicaid, but the short window of protection (18-months) is a source of stress. Marie-C. worries that at the end of next year, she will be living in fear of being deported. “I would like to see the US government give people residency, so you can [go back to Haiti and] visit your family. TPS is temporary. After TPS, we will be living in stress because we know they can always send us away.”