For Carline Ruiz, the wait is finally over.
After years of seeking the credentials to legally stay and work in this country, Ruiz, a native of Haiti, recently was granted Temporary Protected Status with the help of Miami Law's Health & Elder Law Clinic.
The Clinic has been assisting Haitians with the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) process since January, when it conducted a day-long TPS application drive at Jackson Memorial Hospital. To date, 133 applications have been completed and sent out, and the Clinic has received three fully approved TPS notices. The cases were taken in by the Health & Elder Law Clinic on January 22, and the final applications were mailed to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services on February 5.
Ruiz, one of the three clients who received TPS approval, as well an employment authorization card, said the new status brings long-sought peace of mind. "For ten long years, I tried hard to get my employment card," said Ruiz. "And now I have it. I can stay and work here. I am very happy."
Receiving TPS approval means that she will be allowed to work and reside in the United States until July 22, 2011.
TPS allows Haitians who resided in the U.S. prior to the January earthquake to work and remain in the country legally. Advocates anticipate much of the funds earned from their legal employment will be sent back to their families in Haiti to aid in the recovery from the earthquake.
"Haitians only have until July 20, 2010 to register for TPS," explained Matthew Eandi, a second-year law student who serves as a Legal Intern at the Health & Elder Law Clinic.
"After the TPS period expires, we anticipate that the government will extend the privilege or allow for some type of legislation that will continue to protect Haitians who are presently in the United States. There is nothing on the agenda right now as far as we are aware, which would lead to such legislation, and in the future we may make some sort push to advance for further protection."
Law students from the Clinic, including Eandi, Alison Flowers and Frederick Hawkins, have been involved in the process from the initial intake interview, to completing the application with supporting evidence, and finally sending the completed applications to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
"As a graduating 3L, I was very grateful to have been able to help coordinate and participate in such an important legal services project that had both an individual and community-wide impact," said Flowers. "The Haitian TPS Project in the Health & Elder Law Clinic gave me first-hand knowledge and practical experience working with an underserved community that I will draw up as I embark on my professional legal career."