Hunton & Williams LLP, on behalf of Catholic Charities Immigration Legal Services, the Episcopal Bishop of Haiti, and a coalition of 49 U.S. charitable organizations, has launched an effort to put as much as $1 billion directly into the Haitian economy over the next three years as the country recovers from the recent devastating earthquake.
In a letter delivered today to Alejandro Mayorkas, Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services; Senators John Cornyn (R-Texas), Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), Charles Schumer (D-New York), Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama) and Lamar Smith (R-Texas); and Members of the House of Representatives John Conyers (D-Michigan), Steve King (R-Iowa) and Zoe Lofgren (D-California), the coalition has asked the U.S. government to waive fees for Haitian nationals applying for Temporary Protected Status (TPS). The group believes eliminating these fees will increase the remittances Haitians send home to their families, money that is critical to any long-term rebuilding programs led by the United States.
“Haitian nationals living abroad already send between $1.5 and $1.8 billion a year home to their relatives. An estimated one-third of the families in Port-au-Prince alone relied on remittances in 2009,” said Debi Sanders, Government Liaison and Pro Bono Coordinator for Catholic Charities Immigration Legal Services. “Now, as Haiti confronts the massive task of rebuilding, this money will play a crucial role in ensuring the stability of the country and the future of its people.”
“On behalf of the Bishop of Haiti, the Rt. Rev. Jean Zaché Duracin, the people of the Episcopal Church of Haiti, and all Haitians, we are deeply grateful that this coalition is working so hard to help all Haitians in the United States,” said the Rev. Lauren R. Stanley, Assistant to Bishop Duracin. “It is very important for Haitians not only to be able to stay in America, but to earn a living so that they can participate in the recovery of Haiti following this devastating earthquake.”
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently granted Haitian nationals living in the United States prior to the January 12 earthquake the ability to apply for TPS and obtain 18-month work permits. Some economists have predicted that if TPS resulted in a 20 percent increase in the average remittance per migrant, this might result in an additional $360 million reaching Haiti in 2010. If TPS is extended beyond 18 months, that amount could exceed $1 billion over three years. TPS applicants who want to work legally, however, must pay nearly $500 in filing fees and few of the estimated 100,000-200,000 eligible Haitian nationals have applied so far. The application deadline is July 20, 2010.
“We applaud DHS for recognizing that remittances represent a powerful microeconomic tool for Haiti’s economic recovery,” said Wally Martinez, Managing Partner at Hunton & Williams. “They will help Haitians in ways that other forms of aid do not, and will result in money from Haitian nationals going to individuals most in need. Now, we’re asking for the government to take the next step and waive TPS application fees so the maximum amount of money possible can be injected into the Haitian economy. This is not only for the benefit of Haitians. Maximizing remittances will ensure the social and economic stability of a close U.S. neighbor.”