The Legal Aid Society and Law Firm Partners Assist Almost 500 Haitian Nationals File for Temporary Protected Status

Monday, February 15, 2010

  • The Legal Aid Society

In response to the devastation caused by the earthquake in Haiti, the attorneys and paralegals of the Legal Aid Society’s Immigration Law Unit, complemented by law firm volunteers, have moved to the forefront of the outreach effort to assist Haitian immigrants in receiving Temporary Protected Status (“TPS”). Haitian nationals have until July 20, 2010 to apply for TPS, which will be valid for 18 months and will permit them to obtain work authorization.

The Society’s Immigration Law Unit is able to provide these comprehensive services because the Society does not accept federal Legal Services Corporation funding which limits assistance for immigrants. The Society’s Criminal Defense Practice also enhances the Society’s immigration assistance because of the intersection between immigration law and criminal law. The staff’s capacity to assist the thousands of Haitian nationals eligible for TPS has been augmented by more than 120 law firm volunteers. Pro bono assistance has enabled The Legal Aid Society to hold nine community-outreach clinics, two of which were in conjunction with the City University of New York (“CUNY”)’s Citizenship Now Project. The clinics have attracted approximately 750 Haitian nationals and nearly 500 TPS applications have been completed for eligible clients. Additional clinics have been conducted in partnership with elected officials at their offices or at community outreach sites. Future clinics, in close proximity to Haitian communities in New York City, are scheduled over the next five months.

To ensure that outreach to the Haitian community is as broad as possible, The Legal Aid Society established a hotline that is staffed almost entirely with law firm volunteers. The hotline, open Monday through Friday from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM, provides callers with information on basic eligibility for filing TPS applications, pending immigration applications, and other immigration-related issues. Over 40 pro bono attorneys, paralegals, and support staff already have committed to staffing the hotline during February. Hughes Hubbard & Reed LLP and Weil Gotshal & Manges LLP have each agreed to a dedicated weekly time period.

The efforts of the following law firms in this special program for Haitians have been exemplary: Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP; Cahill, Gordon & Reindel LLP; Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP; Davis, Polk & Wardwell LLP; Debevoise & Plimpton LLP; Dewey & LeBoeuf LLP; Fried, Frank LLP; Hughes Hubbard & Reed LLP; Kasowitz, Benson, Torres & Friedman LLP; Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy LLP; Morrison & Foerster LLP; Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP; Ropes & Gray LLP; Shearman & Sterling LLP; Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP; Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP & Affiliates; Stroock & Stroock & Lavan LLP; Sullivan & Cromwell LLP; Vinson & Elkins LLP; Weil Gotshal & Manges LLP; and White & Case LLP. The Legal Aid Society also commends the efforts of volunteer Creole translators and interpreters in the community who have stepped forward in this time of crisis.