San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Region’s Immigrants Fight To Obtain U.S. Green Cards

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Immigrants to the United States from El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua who benefited from the TPS temporary permission to live and work in the country are banding together to press for definitive concessions of legal residence.Nearly 350,000 citizens from the three Central American nations are favored by the TPS measure, known as Temporary Protected Status.Some 250,000 Salvadorans, 90,000 Hondurans and 6,000 Nicaraguans have benefitted from successive extensions of TPS in response to natural disasters in those Central American nations.In early 1999, the White House granted TPS to more than 110,000 Hondurans and 8,000 Nicaraguans to help the countries cope with the destruction wreaked by Hurricane Mitch in late October and early November 1998.In 2001, some 300,000 Salvadorans were given refuge in the United States in response to the damages inflicted by the earthquakes in January and February of that year.Washington grants TPS to citizens of countries afflicted by natural disasters or armed conflict. Recipients may work freely and enjoy safety from deportation.The original number of Salvadorans, Hondurans and Nicaraguans enjoying TPS has dropped because thousands have secured more permanent immigration status.In most cases, such status was achieved through marriage to U.S. citizens, petitions filed by relatives who are already U.S. citizens or permanent residents, and work contracts, according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS).Leaders of U.S. immigrant-defense organizations said President George W. Bush’s proposed immigration reform does not entail the permanent legalization of the close to 12 million people in the country illegally.As a result, immigrant groups have joined forces in a drive to get the government to grant “green cards” to the more than 350,000 Central Americans who currently enjoy TPS.Plans are to step up efforts at all levels in the coming days, especially in the two houses of Congress, where separate immigration- reform bills are pending.In January, Salvadoran President Tony Saca hailed the third extension of TPS granted Salvadorans – as of Jan. 7 – as a “first step” in their permanent legalization (NT, Jan. 14).In October, the U.S. government extended TPS, for the fifth time, to Hondurans and Nicaraguans through July 5, 2006.For his part, Honduran President Ricardo Maduro said his country harbors the hope of “going beyond (TPS) and obtaining more permanent status” for Hondurans in the United States.Maduro said: “There is no foreign policy issue more important to Honduras than enabling our compatriots living in the United States to obtain decent employment, the residency status necessary to secure stable employment.”TPS extensions for Salvadorans, Hondurans and Nicaraguans all expire in mid-2006.

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