One-Day TPS Clinic Helps 135 Nepalese

The TPS clinic held at Newtown High School in Elmhurst on Aug. 1 (Photo by Anuz Thapa for Voices of NY)

The TPS clinic held at Newtown High School in Elmhurst on Aug. 1. (Photo by Anuz Thapa for Voices of NY)

A large-scale free legal one-day clinic on Temporary Protected Status (TPS), held Aug. 1 in Elmhurst, Queens, assisted 135 Nepalese applicants curious about whether they could apply for TPS.

On June 24, 2015, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) granted TPS status to qualifying immigrants from Nepal for a period of 18 months. A number of clinics have already been held in Queens, including some at restaurants and other locations in Jackson Heights and elsewhere. This most recent event, at Newtown High School, was sponsored by community groups and nonprofit legal service providers including the New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC), New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG), CUNY Citizenship Now, The Legal Aid Society and the Nepalese community services organization Adhikaar.

Tenzing Gurung (a pseudonym), 39, from Mustang, a very popular trekking destination of Nepal, was looking for advice at the clinic. He has been in the United States for more than 12 years. He came here on a tourist visa and overstayed his visa. “The only reason I am trying to apply for TPS is to meet my father and mother in Nepal,” said Gurung. “I have never applied for asylum because I did not want to, but since the April earthquake I am dying to see them.”

While applying for TPS, applicants can also apply for travel authorization.

JoJo Annobill, the attorney-in-charge of the Immigration Law Unit, The Legal Aid Society (on the extreme right), advising information seekers. (Photo by Anuz Thapa for Voices for NY)

JoJo Annobil, the attorney-in-charge of the Immigration Law Unit of The Legal Aid Society (on the extreme right), advising information seekers. (Photo by Anuz Thapa for Voices for NY)

Jojo Annobil, the attorney-in-charge of the Immigration Law Unit of The Legal Aid Society, who was assisting the applicants, advised everyone to speak to a lawyer first before applying for advance parole. “We don’t want to jeopardize anybody’s case so we always counsel them before applying for travel authorization. Immigration status has always been a complicated case,” he pointed out.

Nepalese-American attorneys charge legal fees for their services, ranging from as low as $350 to as high as $500. But not all can afford this.

Madan Das Shrestha (a pseudonym) lives with his wife, one son and a daughter in Queens. He said, “My father and mother both are older than 65 and I am the only son in the family. I want my parents to live here with me so I can take good care of them. I guess TPS is a good opportunity to have them with me. I am not in a position to pay an attorney’s fee right now, that’s why I came here.” His parents came to New York on a tourist visa in November 2014.

More than 150 people had scheduled an appointment for the clinic, and 150 showed up and 135 applications were filed. “We are happy that we could assist the high volume of people today and this is what we aimed for,” said Camille Mackler, the director of Legal Initiatives at NYIC.

Luna Ranjit, the executive director at Adhikaar, revealed that there have been reports in the Nepalese media about people claiming to assist Nepalese to enter the United States and get TPS. “Nobody coming to the U.S. after June 24, 2015 is eligible to apply for TPS. If somebody tells you that they will get you TPS, don’t believe them,” said Ranjit.

The U.S. Embassy in Nepal even released a press statement on July 24, 2015 to warn Nepalese against fraudulent promises. It read: “The U.S. Embassy is concerned about recent reports in the media that dishonest individuals are claiming that they can help Nepalese enter the United States and earn Temporary Protected Status (TPS).  These claims are false, and should be ignored. Only individuals who have been continuously physically present in the United States on or before June 24, 2015 and who continue to remain physically present in the United States are eligible for this status.”

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