A group of Connecticut attorneys will give free legal assistance Saturday, Feb. 6 to documented and undocumented Haitian citizens who wish to extend their stay in the United States.

Community leaders and representatives for Connecticut Lawyers for Haiti discussed the need to help the country and its people recover from the devastating earthquake.

“We spend a lot of time in this building, talking about what the other side has or hasn’t done and sometimes we forget about people,” Rep. Gary Holder-Winfield, D-New Haven, said Monday at a Capitol press conference. “And it’s when you see things like this, these tragedies, that the response to these things reminds us of some of the good things that we can do and some of the positive ways that people in our communities can respond.”

Rev. Leonce Alexis from the French Speaking Baptist Church of New Haven said that “You can see around Haiti, people who have broken legs, broken arms. And you see people carrying and trying to take them to a place to keep them safe and try to treat them. This is compassion.”

Jennifer Rodriguez, of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said the Temporary Protected Status, which the Obama administration began granting to Haitians on Thursday will shield them from deportation and allow them to work.

Citizens of Haiti who were physically in the United States on Jan. 12 when an earthquake devastated their home country and continue to reside in the United States are eligible for the protected status.  Rodriguez explained that people living in Haiti do not qualify.

The application fee is $50. As part of the process, applicants will have to submit to a full biometric criminal background check which will cost them an additional $80. Those who have been convicted of certain crimes will be ineligible for the protected status. For work authorization papers, applicants will have to pay another $340. Waivers are available for all the fees but may slow the application process.

Applicants will need to prove their citizenship with a Haitian passport or birth certificate. Pay stubs, bills, receipts, correspondence, bank statements or any record that has their name and address will suffice to show that you were present in the United States on Jan. 12. Applicants will also need to bring any records of prior court cases or immigration filings and two color passport photos.

Haitians in the United State can apply for the status until July 20, 2010. This special immigration status will expire July 22, 2011 unless the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security choose to extend it.

The immigration clinics are being held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Hartford City Hall, the University of Connecticut campus in Stamford, Southern Connecticut State University in New Haven, and Norwich City Hall. More than 80 volunteers will help people fill out their applications.

A fifth clinic may be set up in Bridgeport. Pierre D’Haiti of the Haitian Resource Center there pointed out that the city has a large Haitian population.