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May 3, 2001

INS Extends Refuge to Immigrants


Filed at 6:36 p.m. ET

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Immigration and Naturalization Service on Thursday extended temporary refuge to Nicaraguan and Honduran immigrants who initially were given protective status in 1998 after Hurricane Mitch.

The one-year extension applies to about 5,300 Nicaraguans and 105,000 Hondurans who have already registered for Temporary Protection Status. That is a form of protection offered when conditions in a country are determined to be too dangerous or unstable for its nationals to safely return.

Temporary protective status for Nicaraguans and Hondurans was to expire July 5.

"While Honduras and Nicaragua continue to make progress in recovering from the devastation of Hurricane Mitch, the environmental disaster has resulted in substantial disruption to living conditions and both countries remain unable to handle adequately the return of its nationals," said Kevin Rooney, the acting INS commissioner.

The immigrants, in the country both legally and illegally, were first given the protective status Dec. 30, 1998, for 18 months; the deadline was extended for an additional year.

The new extension only applies to Nicaraguans and Hondurans who entered the United States after the first protective status order was granted.

The Clinton administration issued the first amnesty when the region was trying to recover from Hurricane Mitch. That storm killed more than 9,000 people, left 2 million homeless, and caused damage estimated at up to $10 billion.

After a White House plea by El Salvador's president, Bush moved last month to allow Salvadorans here illegally to stay for 18 months while the Central American nation recovers from devastating twin earthquakes.

The decision prevented undocumented Salvadorans from being detained or deported. It also will allow them to continue working legally. The money that Salvadorans send back home has been a mainstay of that nation's economy.

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