The Miami Herald
October 19, 2000

Colombians seek extended stay in U.S.


 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 endorsed by
 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 Service,
 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 for years,
 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 as 110,000
 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, Burundi,
 Guinea-Bissau, Honduras, Kosovo, Liberia, Montserrat, Nicaragua, Sierra Leone,
 Somalia and Sudan.