Colombians seek extended stay in U.S.
BY ALFONSO CHARDY
Tens of thousands of Colombians living illegally in the United
States, most of
them in South Florida, may be a little closer now to persuading the Clinton
administration to legalize their immigration status.
Their plea for ``temporary protected status,'' or TPS, was recently
their own government in an Oct. 11 letter from Colombian Foreign Minister
Guillermo Fernández de Soto to U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.
TPS, an official designation of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization
allows foreign nationals of countries in crisis who have overstayed their visas or
permits to stay legally in the United States for a specific period of time.
Though tens of thousands of Colombians have lived in South Florida
their numbers have increased sharply over the last year as a result of a worsening
security situation in their home country. Colombian guerrillas and other armed
forces have stepped up fighting, travel within parts of Colombia is difficult, and
kidnapping people for ransom is common.
A State Department official said a response to Fernández
de Soto had been
prepared and that the U.S. government is watching to determine whether TPS is
``The Department of State is closely monitoring the situation
in Colombia with
respect to TPS,'' the official said. ``No recommendation has been made.''
Johanna Davila, of the Colombian American Service Association,
said, ``If this is
not resolved before the end of the Clinton administration, we're dead.''
The association's Viviana Aponte said TPS would affect as many
Colombians in the United States, including more than 50,000 in Miami-Dade,
Broward and Palm Beach counties.
Citizens of 11 other countries are eligible for TPS: Bosnia-Herzegovina,
Guinea-Bissau, Honduras, Kosovo, Liberia, Montserrat, Nicaragua, Sierra Leone,
Somalia and Sudan.