U.S. grants illegal Salvadorans 18 months of grace
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush informed President Francisco Flores of El Salvador Friday that Salvadoran citizens living in the United States have been granted 18 months relief from deportation, allowing them to continue to work and send money home to their earthquake-shattered country regardless of their residency status.
Among those affected by the move are about 1,100 Salvadorans currently in Immigration and Naturalization Service custody, awaiting repatriation.
The decision was made by Attorney General John Ashcroft, according to a written statement from the president. Flores met with Bush at the White House Friday afternoon.
President Bush also announced that he informed President Flores the United States has pledged $52 million in reconstruction assistance for this year and expects to match it next year.
"I had a good meeting today with El Salvador's President Francisco Flores. I commended him for the strong leadership he and his government have shown in the aftermath of two recent earthquakes that killed and injured thousands of people and left many more homeless," Bush said in the statement.
El Salvador has suffered two major earthquakes in the past two months, one on January 13 and another on February 13. The quakes devastated the country, leaving significant proportions of the population homeless and causing damage estimated to range into the billions of dollars.
"The recent earthquake in Washington state brings home to the citizens of our nation how natural disaster can strike any of us. And it reminds us of our obligation to reach out to help those in other nations struggling in the wake of disaster to rebuild their homes and lives," Bush said.
The INS temporarily suspended deportations of Salvadoran nationals shortly after the first earthquake. At that time the Salvadoran government asked the U.S. government to grant a relief period. The action announced Friday was the culmination of a review done by the attorney general after consultation with the INS and Department of State after the Salvadoran's request.
The United States has sent rescue workers and more than $16 million in relief assistance to El Salvador in the past two months.
Another deadly quake strikes El Salvador
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