- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 2, 2002

Tens of thousands of Honduran immigrants will lose their legal status in the United States if they do not renew it today, the Honduran Embassy said.
Nearly 105,000 Hondurans who received temporary protection status here after Hurricane Mitch left widespread damage in their country in 1998 must reapply by the end of today to have their legal status extended for a year.
As of June 24, 28,500 applications had been processed, according to the Immigration and Naturalization Service.
Embassy officials say they are worried about the rest.
"They will go back to their original status of being illegal," said David Hernandez, legislative counselor at the Honduran Embassy. "That puts them in line to be deported."
A dozen applicants waited yesterday afternoon in a circle of rickety chairs at the Honduran Embassy's consular section in Washington as volunteers helped them fill out their paperwork.
The office has been open late seven days a week for the past two months in anticipation of a sudden traffic increase. But only about 1,200 visitors have come since May, counselor Leonardo Irias said.
Low numbers of applicants have been reported in consulates from Los Angeles to Vermont, although piles of envelopes have arrived by mail at the offices and have yet to be opened.
Mr. Irias said fear has kept many Hondurans from turning in their paperwork.
"We have no idea why they're not coming to the consulate," he said. "They have to put their address on the forms, and that makes them scared, even though they already have" temporary protection status.
Others say that despite television and radio spots on Spanish stations notifying Hondurans of the application deadline, immigrants who often work at two or three jobs a day never heard about it.
"They are very disconnected," said Denia Castellano, a Honduran volunteer working at the consulate.
A Honduran economy left crippled by Hurricane Mitch in 1998 pushed thousands to seek refuge here, which granted temporary protection status and work permits to 105,000 Hondurans the next year.
The INS extended the offer after concluding that Honduras was not ready to accept an influx of returning citizens.
To qualify for temporary legal status, applicants must prove they are from Honduras and that they came to the United States before December 30, 1998. Spouses and children of those with temporary status are also eligible.
Private offices throughout the country charge applicants $400 to $600 to fill out their papers after telling Hondurans that it is not safe to go to the consulates because they will turn in undocumented migrants, Mr. Hernandez said.
Many of the private groups send forms to the INS for Hondurans who do not qualify for temporary status, putting them at risk of being deported.
"If they feel fear for something like that, they should feel fear of being left out of any opportunity in the future" to obtain legal status, said Mr. Hernandez, who added that the embassy does not give names of undocumented Hondurans to the INS.


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