Student sparks nationwide effort to assist Haitians in Miami over Spring Break

While many students may be taking a trip to the beach over Spring Break, more than a dozen Wake Forest University School of Law students will be helping Haitians obtain temporary legal status and U.S. work permits.

In response to January’s devastating earthquake, the Obama Administration announced that Haitians would be permitted to apply for Temporary Protected Status (TPS). Having this status means Haitians can legally work in the United States for up to 18 months. TPS is only available for Haitians who were already in the U.S. on Jan. 12, when the earthquake hit, according to Professor Margaret Taylor, who is an expert in immigration law.

Law students will volunteer in Miami for a week beginning March 8 to assist with the mounting applications caused by the shift in U.S. immigration policy. Students will work in conjunction with the University of Miami School of Law Immigration Clinic, said Michael Lennox (’11), trip organizer and a member of the Pro Bono Committee.

According to Professor Taylor, Lennox was instrumental in sparking a nationwide effort to bring law students to assist Haitians in Miami over spring break.

"At the official event launching Wake’s new pro bono initiative, just one week after the earthquake, Michael announced his idea to organize this trip. I then posted a message to a list serve of immigration law professors to see if other schools were interested in doing the same. The response was overwhelming, and it was Michael’s initiative that got the ball rolling in Miami and elsewhere for law students across the country to join this effort,” Taylor said.

Lennox has been coordinating the trip with Miami Law Professor Rebecca Sharpless, who will plug Wake Forest students into clinical activities that will be undertaken by several immigration law organizations in the Miami area.

"My understanding is that the change in policy may allow for as many as 200,000 immigrants who were already in the U.S. to obtain the right to legally live and work in the U.S. for 18 months," ,” Lennox said. “This is creating an increased demand for volunteers willing to help operate clinics that would process applications. There will also be other related volunteer activities going on throughout the week in Miami.”