Groups, Haitian Embassy to help immigrants get temporary legal status

By N.C. Aizenman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 2, 2010; 1:31 PM

A coalition of local and national organizations that serve immigrants launched a coordinated effort with the Embassy of Haiti on Tuesday to help unauthorized Haitian immigrants in the Washington area register for the temporary legal status and work permits offered by the Obama administration in the wake of last month's earthquake.

Local partners include the Caribbean Help Center, CASA of Maryland, Impact Silver Spring and the World Haitian Community Center. The American Immigration Lawyers Association and the Prince George's County Police Department are also assisting with the initiative.

Staff members of several of the organizations plan to get briefings from the Department of Homeland Security on the details of the temporary legal status application process so they can schedule registration workshops in the near future, according Andre Vainqueur, a Haitian American who is senior manager of two CASA centers. The groups will also provide individual assistance with applications and other legal and economic needs on a walk-in basis.

The initiative's second component is a fundraising drive to collect donations for various schools, orphanages, and faith-based nonprofit groups that are currently involved in relief efforts on the ground in Haiti.

As many as 20,000 Haitian immigrants live in the Washington area. It is unclear what percentage of illegal immigrants would benefit from temporary status.

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