More than 12,000 Haitians have applied for the chance to stay and work legally in the U.S. while their country struggles to recover from last month's earthquake.
The applications have rolled in, even though the July 20 application deadline is months away, said Bill Wright, spokesman for Citizenship and Immigration Services, part of the Homeland Security Department.
The chance to work is critical for many of the immigrants who are hoping to help families trying to overcome the magnitude-7 earthquake that leveled parts of Haiti.
Because it is unsafe to return the illegal immigrants to Haiti, DHS said it would grant eligible immigrants temporary protected status. Successful applicants can remain and work for 18 months without fear of deportation or detention.
Application fees to stay at a total of $470.
As of Feb. 10, the agency had received 12,583 application packages. The agency estimated last month that between 100,000 to 200,000 Haitian immigrants would be eligible to apply. The status is only available to immigrants who were in the U.S. as of Jan. 12, the day the earthquake occurred.
Temporary protected status is granted when the federal government believes it is unsafe to send immigrants to their home countries because of natural disasters or armed conflict.
The U.S. has also suspended deportations of Haitians, but continues to repatriate those intercepted on the sea.
Information on applying for temporary protected status is available at http://www.uscis.gov and 1-800-375-5283.
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