Friends of Refugees

A U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program Watchdog Group

Haitian humanitarian paroles recovering in Atlanta, Miami, Durham, Houston, Portland, Ore. & Louisville

Posted by Christopher Coen on July 7, 2010

Haitian humanitarian paroles are slowly recovering from earthquake injuries in Atlanta, Miami, Durham, N.C. Houston, Portland, Ore., Louisville and other cities. An article in the Courier-Journal newspaper profiles two Haitians in Louisville, here.

Paralyzed from the waist down during the Jan. 12 earthquake that devastated Port-au-Prince, [Haitian Miguel Zamor] was resettled in Louisville three weeks ago following surgeries in Miami on his spine, which was crushed by a falling wall.

“We get a lot of help here, my biggest problem is the chair I’m in,” Zamor said through a Haitian Creole translator. Zamor still holds out hope to walk again and return to his family in Haiti.

The 26-year-old Zamor is among a handful of medically fragile Haitians and their family members who since February have been resettled in Louisville. Under the care of Kentucky Refugee Ministries, they are slowly recovering with temporary aid such as housing, food stamps and medical care.

…It hasn’t been easy for the Haitians to adjust to a strange city with few friends. Some are still traumatized from losing the use of limbs or family members. And most are acutely aware that their families are still sleeping under rickety shelters in the poor, quake-damaged nation.

“Some in our family are still not found,” said Zamor, who was cooking food in a Port-au-Prince apartment when the quake brought down his building. He lay buried for hours until his family came to dig him out. He said doctors gave him a 50 percent chance of walking again.

With an estimated 220,000 to 300,000 killed and roughly 1.5 million homeless from the quake, some of the most severely injured were evacuated by the U.S. military to Miami hospitals for treatment. Many remained there for weeks or months.

The most common injuries included amputations, burns, brain damage and spinal cord injuries.

Unable to undergo painstaking and expensive recoveries in quake-damaged Haiti, more than 111 were resettled by Church World Service to cities such as Atlanta, Miami, Durham, N.C. Houston, Portland, Ore. and Louisville. Only two of the 111 have been able to return to Haiti. Other agencies, including the Catholic Conference of Bishops, have resettled other Haitians.

Each was granted “humanitarian parole” from the U.S. Government — typically given to immigrants from countries where sudden conflict or disaster prevents them from returning to their homelands safely — which allows them to stay for at least one year and potentially reapply to stay longer.

…several Liberian refugees recently brought more than six bags of clothing for the Haitians after reading about their plights. And they presented Zamor with a $115 check to help with living expenses.

“We know how it is to face suffering from war and disasters,” said Jefferson Howe, one of the Liberians who came to the U.S. years ago.

Apparently the federal government is resettlement agencies refugee resettlement funds to care for these Haitians while they stay in the US. I suspect the USCIS (formerly known as the INS) will allow them to stay until their injuries heal and Haiti has recovered from February’s earthquake. The USCIS granted Haitians who applied for and received Temporary Protected Status (TPS) 18 months to stay, until July 11, 2011. That will likely be renewed until Haiti recovers. There are just two more weeks left to apply for TPS. Haitian nationals, who have continuously resided in the United States since Jan. 12, 2010 and who meet other TPS eligibility requirements, must file their applications for TPS no later than July 20, 2010.

*UPDATE — the deadline to apply for TPS has now been extended until January 18, 2011.

Final note: the State Department gave Kentucky Refugee Ministries, a CWS and EMM affiliate, generally high marks on their last inspection visit in 2007, here.

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