Amid all the bad news and devastation in their homeland, there is one silver lining for Haitians in America such as Marie Tryphose Louis and her sister, Marie Mical Louis.
The sisters, of Wheatley Heights, are among up to 200,000 undocumented Haitians who could soon be eligible for a benefit allowing them to live and work in the United States legally for at least 18 months - and maybe longer.
The sisters, who have resided here for almost a decade, can live without the fear of being deported, made all the more worrisome after last week's quake.
"I am here. I cannot work. I want to go to school. I cannot go to school. I cannot drive. I cannot even help my family in Haiti," Marie Tryphose Louis, 42, said in Creole translated by a relative. "I am really happy that the president is helping us now."
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced Friday she was granting to Haitians temporary protected status, given to citizens from countries suffering from natural disasters or civil war. The government can extend the program and has done so in recent cases.
Some worried the move could trigger a new wave of undocumented immigrants, though Napolitano warned Haitians who try to come to the United States now will be deported.
"There ought to be a suspension of deportation at this time, but a formal TPS is probably more than is necessary and could very well trigger a mass exodus from Haiti," said Ira Mehlman, a spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform. "The other part of TPS is once it's in place, people forget about the T."
The news was welcomed by immigration advocates, Haitians and lawmakers.
The declaration "will impact significantly the rebuilding movement in Haiti because a number of Haitians will be able to work now and help themselves and their families in Haiti," said Annilus Gilot, an immigration attorney in Westbury.
The Louises hope the move will help them realize the dreams that brought them here in the first place. Marie Tryphose was fired from a Huntington salon a year ago because of her status. Her sister was let go from an Amityville salon last week for the same reason.
Now, the sisters hope to pursue school. Marie Tryphose wants to become a certified nursing assistant; Marie Mical, a licensed practical nurse. They hope to be able to send more money to relatives in Haiti.
"Before, I was feeling stressed," said Marie Mical in Creole. "I was desperate. Now, I have new doors open for me. I am feeling very happy."