Within days of the devastating earthquake in Haiti on Jan. 12, the United States government declared that Haitians living illegally in the United States were eligible for temporary protected status, a special immigration designation that temporarily allows them to work here legally.
Two months after the earthquake, and a third of the way to the July deadline to file for the special status, just 34,427 of the estimated 100,000 to 200,000 undocumented Haitians who were in the United States before Jan. 12 have applied, said the Department of Homeland Security. The protected status allows 18 months of legally working.
Charitable groups blame the lag on the application fees, which total about $500. The average monthly amount that Haitians abroad send to relatives in Haiti–a pillar of the country’s economy–is just $150, according to the Inter-American Development Bank. On Monday, a broad coalition of charities called on the government to make it easier for applicants to have the fee waived.