The Immigrant Rights Clinic won a victory this week for immigrants who hold Temporary Protected Status (TPS), a humanitarian form of relief given to individuals whose home countries have suffered from natural disasters or civil strife. Hundreds of thousands of Central Americans currently hold TPS. Haiti is the most recent country designated for TPS due to the devastating impact of the earthquake.
For the past two and a half years, the Immigrant Rights Clinic had advocated for a change in governmental policy regarding bars to the issuance or renewal of TPS for New Yorkers with low level, non-criminal, offenses. The immigration agency had been defining minor non-criminal traffic infractions and violations under New York law as misdemeanors sufficient to strip an individual of his of her TPS. Through litigation and policy advocacy, the clinic worked to convince the government that such a broad definition of the term misdemeanor was illegitimate as a matter of law and ill-advised as a matter of policy. This advocacy paid off. On Tuesday January 19, the Department of Homeland Security issued a memo agreeing with the clinic’s arguments, citing examples provided by the clinic, and announcing a change in governmental policy. The change in policy was announced in time to govern the adjudication of thousands of applications by Haitians for Temporary Protected Status. It will also provide relief to thousands of Central Americans who were wrongfully denied Temporary Protected Status in the past. NYU students Sarah Vendzules ’08, Chirag Badlani ’08, Sambo Dul ’10, Julia Dietz ’10, and Elizabeth Carlson ’10, worked on this case under the supervision of Professor of Clinical Law Nancy Morawetz.

Posted January 20, 2010