The suffering of the Haitian people in the aftermath of January’s earthquake has inspired many Americans to help. Several months on, Haiti, one of the world’s poorest nations, is still struggling. And despite the outpouring of assistance, it probably will for some time.

SLS students in matching shirts pose for a group photo in Haiti.
Stanford Law students in Miami helping Haitians

For Haitian nationals living in or visiting the United States when the earthquake struck, returning home after the disaster was at first impossible—and now would do more harm than good, adding to their government’s already strained ability to house approximately 1 million displaced citizens. These Haitians have been applying for “temporary protected status” (TPS), which allows them to remain in the United States for a defined period of time. Thousands of applications have been flowing through Miami en route to the Department of Homeland Security for official processing.

Last March, 10 Stanford Law students went to Miami for an “alternative spring break,” joining peers at the University of Miami’s Health and Elder Law Clinic to tackle the backlog of TPS applications. Grants from Stanford Law’s John and Terry Levin Center for Public Service and Public Interest Law and the Stanford Public Interest Law Foundation helped to cover the cost of the trip.

Students ventured into Miami’s Haitian neighborhoods with flyers advertising the TPS clinics. Then, with training and oversight from UM attorneys, students honed their legal skills conducting intake interviews, completing the TPS and employment authorization applications, and helping to fill out applications for a waiver of the $470 TPS fee.

“By midday on our first day of intake, the line of Haitians seeking 
assistance stretched outside the door of Chef 
Nicole, a restaurant that provided us with a place to work in the heart of Little Haiti,” says Carolyn Slauson ’11. “With our group split across house calls, intake at Jackson Memorial Hospital, and Chef Nicole, the clinical staff called in students from the University of Miami for extra support. So many people, such a great need—with the support of everyone, the work got done.”