Haitian immigrants reshaping Springfield: 5 key takeaways from our reporting

As increasing numbers of Haitian immigrants move to Springfield, schools, health care providers, social service agencies and non profits are working to assist them.

An estimated 5,000 to 10,000 Haitians moved to Springfield in the last five or six years. Like many immigrants in the U.S. the Haitians are challenged by a severely backlogged immigration system, including delays in getting work permits and having their claims for asylum or Temporary Protected Status approved.

In Springfield the Haitians also face protestors coming to city commission meetings or protesting outside City Hall in the wake of a fatal school bus accident involving a Haitian immigrant driver in August.

Here are five things to know about the immigration system and the Haitian community in Springfield.

1. Many Haitians in Springfield are eligible for Temporary Protected Status (TPS), an immigration designation available to foreign nationals from 16 countries that allows them to live and work in the U.S. for up to 18 months, subject to extension or redesignation by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Credit: Alexis Larsen

Credit: Alexis Larsen

2. There were 610,630 foreign nationals with approved TPS status in the U.S., including 6,005 in Ohio as of March 31, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services data compiled by the U.S. Congressional Research Service.

3. Immigration attorney, Kathleen Kersh of Advocates for Basic Legal Equality, disputes protesters’ allegation that the Haitian immigrants are in the U.S. illegally, saying, “The Haitians that I’ve met all have permission to be here. The federal government knows they are here.”

4. Once they have their work permits the Haitians can legally take jobs, and employers ”love it that they show up to work every day, can pass a drug screen and are willing to work overtime and work hard,” said Chris Cook, assistant health commissioner for the Clark County Combined Health District and co-chair of the Haitian Coalition of community partner agencies.

5. Immigrants with proper documentation who meet financial thresholds can be eligible for Medicaid, food stamps and Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, and in certain cases immigrants can get refugee cash assistance, said Virginia K. Martycz, director of Clark County Job and Family Services.

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