Since the January 12th earthquake in Haiti, a record number of Haitians who are NOT refugees of the earthquake have been caught attempting to cross the border from Canada into New York and Vermont. Anchor Marco Werman finds out what's behind the increase from David Watts, a lawyer representing three Haitians recently caught trying to cross the US border from Canada.
MARCO WERMAN: Since the January 12th earthquake in Haiti, a record number of Haitians have been caught attempting to cross illegally into the United States from Canada. Eight were apprehended over the Easter weekend alone. Vermont is a popular entry point. Attorney David Watts is representing three Haitian citizens who crossed over from Canada. He's in Burlington, Vermont. Watts says all three of his clients had previously lived in the U.S.
DAVID WATTS: Each of them had been ordered removed from the U.S., that is that they had been here illegally, had been ordered removed and challenged their removal, but at some point decided on balance to follow the order of the immigration authorities and to leave.
WERMAN: Whey did these three people come into the U.S. from Canada?
WATTS: After January 12th there was a change in policy that was essentially made necessary by the fact of the earthquake in Haiti. People who were in the U.S. illegally really couldn't be returned to Haiti and so immigration authorities established something called temporary protected status whereby they essentially agreed that if you were in the U.S. as of January 12, 2010 when the earthquake occurred and were continuously here thereafter, you wouldn't be repatriated to Haiti and you would have this temporary lawful status in the U.S. including access to work permits.
WERMAN: And obviously these people were not in the U.S. after January 12th when this essentially amnesty was offered, but I guess there was the temptation of coming to the U.S. to take advantage of that amnesty.
WATTS: Yes, of my clients, none of them had access to attorneys so they didn't come back after seeking attorney advice. They learned that Haitians were not being repatriated to Haiti for a temporary period and they assumed this would, on some level, apply to them.
WERMAN: How did your client physically enter the U.S. and how and when were they apprehended?
WATTS: All three of them got a ride to the border and simply walked across on a remote road in a situation or across through the woods where there was a remote road on the other side. None of them had a plan to be picked up or anything. They essentially conceded or expected to be picked up by immigration officials as soon as they got into the U.S.
WERMAN: So what happens to these three people now? Will they be deported?
WATTS: They are facing charges in the U.S. for having re-entered after having been removed. In this situation, even if convicted, it's unlikely that they'll serve long jail sentences. But the problem with that particular charge will essentially render them permanently unable to achieve lawful status within U.S. even if they leave for a long period of time.
WATTS: Ever. And so they're in a situation where they probably will not be repatriated to Haiti for a period of time because they can't be. Haiti is not taking anybody back. But at some point, they would be returned to Haiti.
WERMAN: David Watts is a lawyer representing three Haitians arrested recently for trying to cross into the U.S. from Canada. Thank you indeed Mr. Watts.
WATTS: Thank you very much.