Law Schools

Law School Offers Spring Break Alternative: Help Haitians Stay in US to Support Families


Updated: Law students from across the country will be heading to Miami this March. But instead of beach-hopping and partying, they’ll be immersed in legal advocacy, helping Haitians file for temporary protected status.

The status will allow Haitians who were already in the United States legally before last month’s devastating earthquake to stay longer so they can continue to earn money to send to home support their families.

Hosting the law students is the University of Miami School of Law, which has been using its Health & Elder Law Clinic to help Haitians file for TPS since Feb. 5 when with only two-days notice some 65 TPS seekers attended a walk-in clinic at the University of Miami’s Jackson Memorial Hospital.

The clinic has shepherded about 50 TPS applications to completion so far, according to clinic director JoNel Newman.

“As soon as word got out that we were working on Haitian TPS, law schools from around the country started calling to volunteer over spring break. It was very inspiring,” Melissa Swain, the staff attorney who supervises the clinic, said in a statement about the spring break alternative.

Throughout the month, groups of 10-15 law students will come from Stanford University, the University of San Francisco, the University of Memphis, and New England Law | Boston. Each group will spend five days shepherding each application from initial intake to completing the application with supporting evidence, and finally sending completed applications to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

The idea for the project came from Newman, who after the earthquake was looking for a way for students and staff to help.

They’re not sending food or water, but Newman notes, “The Haitian TPS Project provides a valuable service because it enables those who are here the opportunity to work and send money back to Haiti.”

Newman tells the ABA Journal that clinic volunteers are helping TPS applicants with other needs as well.

“Many clients are themselves quite poor and without basic resources here,” she says. “I know we have assisted more than one homeless individual in this process who did not even have $10 for the required passport photos. Even persons who are able to meet their most basic needs such as food and shelter are sending as much money as they can to family in Haiti. That’s one of the reasons we are seeking fee waivers of the total $470 cost for eligible persons.”

Last updated at 9:30 a.m. Friday to add comments from Newman.

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