Congressman Lynch Calls on President Bush to Allow Montserratian Refugees to Stay in America

Feb 8, 2005

Congressman Stephen F. Lynch (D-MA) today urged President Bush to reverse the decision by the Department of Homeland Security last July 6th to terminate, as of February 27th, the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) granted to the 292 refugees from the island of Montserrat.  In a letter to President Bush that was co-signed by thirteen other Members of Congress, Congressman Lynch called on the President not to force the Montserratian families to return home to their island, which has been devastated by a volcano.

The eruption of a volcano in 1995 destroyed two-thirds of the small island of Montserrat and, in the wake of the devastation, the United States granted TPS to Montserratians.  Today, according to State Department officials, the island is not safe for resettlement, and those who are on the island now are close to subsistence status.  Forcing hundreds more men, women and children to return to the island would further weaken the struggling Montserratian economy and would cause a deterioration in the quality of life for every island resident.  In the last decade, conditions on the island have not improved, and may actually have worsened.

Congressman Lynch said, "To expel the Montserratians now and require them to return under present conditions would be a serious threat to their safety and an affront to our long-standing reputation as a leader in refugee protection.  Many of these men and women have been living and working in the United States for a decade, and have become important members of our communities and our churches.  And we’d be forcing their U.S. citizen children to leave their schools and friends and the only home they’ve ever known.  It’s just wrong to punish legal immigrants who are working hard, paying taxes and playing by the rules.  I am working with Senators Kennedy and Kerry, Cooperative Metropolitan Ministries and the Montserratian Community to persuade President Bush to overturn this harmful decision.”

Vera Weekes, national coordinator of the efforts to extend TPS for Montserratians and to prevent deportation of Montserratians, said, "In Montserrat, people are still living in shelters and there is an acute shortage of suitable accommodation   There are not enough jobs for the people who are already there.   If we send these refugees back, how can we expect them to survive under the present circumstances and to provide for their families? They're supporting themselves here in the US and they're a not burden nor a threat to anyone here. Why would we make them a burden on someone else? I thank Congressman Lynch for his support of our people, and for his leadership on this issue."

Congressman Lynch is also a co-sponsor of legislation that is pending in Congress (H.R. 342, S. 2816) that would allow the Monserrratian refugees on TPS to apply for permanent residency. 

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