08.02.06

Schumer Urges DHS To Grant Montserratians Deferred Enforced Departure Allows Them Another 12-18 Months To Get Affairs In Order

292 individuals from the island of Montserrat were granted Temporary Protected Status (TPS) in August 1997, due to volcanic activity beginning on the island in 1995On July 7, 2004, Department of Homeland Security declared that Montserrat nationals and their American-born children must leave the US by the end of February 2005 or risk deportationSenator introduced legislation last Oc

As over 500 Montserratians face immediate deportation after being denied an extension of Temporary Protected Status, today Senator Charles E. Schumer called on the Department of Homeland Security to grant the refugees and their Americanborn children Deferred Enforced Departure (DED). DED status is given to refugee groups in the US, who have no other way to stay here legally if they would be put in danger by returning to their home countries. It allows the refugees to stay here for an additional 1218 months to get their affairs in order before moving. This status has been conferred upon five groups since 1990. Schumer asked that the Montserratians become the sixth group.

Almost 8 years ago these Montserratians came to the United States fearing both their safety and their livelihood, to build a better life for themselves and their families, said Schumer. They have succeeded and now we are turning our backs on them, telling them to go back to their homes which are uninhabitable, or move to the U.K, the cost of which would drive them into abject poverty, or worse.

In 1995 volcanic activity began on the island of Montserrat forcing 8,000 of the 12,000 inhabitants to flee to various regions of the world. In 1997, 292 refugees were granted TPS in the US, renewable each year, as a result of the continuously erupting volcanoes in Montserrat. The TPS program was terminated because, according the Department of Homeland Security, Montserrat no longer meets the conditions for designation under the TPS program. Since the volcanic eruptions are ongoing they can no longer be considered "temporary" as required by Congress when it enacted the TPS statute. However, on the island of Montserrat, the volcanic activity is in its 10th year. About 2/3 of the island is uninhabitable, with the island's economy, infrastructure and most property virtually destroyed.

In an effort to combat their deportation, last October Schumer introduced the `Montserrat Immigration Fairness Act' . It would have allowed for adjustment of immigration status to nationals of Montserrat provided they apply for adjustment of status within a certain time frame and are determined to be admissible to the United States for permanent residence. He reintroduced the bill on February 4, 2005. Since the bill could not pass before the deadline set by the Department of Homeland Security, Schumer, along with Senators Kennedy and Kerry, sent a letter urging the President to immediately reverse the decision.

The request for the extension was denied. DHS stated that Montserratians, by virtue of being of British dependency, can go to the United Kingdom. Though factually accurate, a Montserratian heading to the UK would need at least six months of funds to support themselves without work, as well as a family member or friend with whom to stay in the UK. The relative weakness of the dollar to the pound compounds these refugees difficulties, as does the fact that few of them have family or friends in the UK.

Schumers letter to DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff is the last hope the Montserratians have before being deported.

Schumer wrote Whatever choices the Montserratian refugees are forced to make, they will need to have some means to support themselves for at least six months or more after they leave the United States, and this deferred period would enable them to prepare for their departure, prevent some economic and social hardships for themselves and their families, and provide them with an opportunity to seek a safe haven and jobs outside the United States.

Click here to view letter.



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