Maryland Law Students Offer Aid to Haitians on Eastern Shore
In the aftermath of the earthquake that devastated Haiti, students from the University of Maryland School of Law got a chance to help some of the Haitians living on the Eastern Shore apply to the federal government to remain legally in this country until the crisis in their homeland subsides.
The School's Immigration Clinic, headed by Maureen Sweeney, JD, worked with the Immigration Legal Services program of Catholic Charities of Washington, D.C., and World Relief for the Feb. 20 workshop in Salisbury. The purpose was to help area Haitians apply for Temporary Protected Status (TPS), as well as apply for waivers of the fees associated with TPS. The local office of the Legal Aid Bureau hosted the workshop.
Sweeney was contacted about holding a workshop in Salisbury by Michelle Mendez, JD, a 2008 Maryland Law grad working for Catholic Charities who helped run two previous TPS workshops. "I thought it would be a good thing to see what we could do concretely to respond to this tragedy in Haiti," said Sweeney.
Salisbury was selected as a location for the TPS workshop because it is centrally located for immigrant workers in the Shore's agricultural economy. Veronique Felix, a paralegal at the Legal Aid Bureau's Salisbury office who works with members of the Eastern Shore's Haitian community, said that population could be as big as 10,000 to 20,000 people.
Sweeney put out a request to find about 15 law students interested in staffing the workshop. "I probably had about 75 students respond to my email. It was an outpouring of generosity on the part of the students," she said.
About 10 Haitians came to the Feb. 20 workshop, with six of them submitting TPS applications with the help of the students. Sweeney said she is open to staffing more workshops, if there is sufficient demand. Shortly after the earthquake, the U.S. government put TPS into effect for Haitians already living in the United States. About five months of the six-month window to apply for TPS status remains in effect.