Durbin, Sununu: Asking Congress to allow Lebanese nationals in the U.S. to remain on temporary basis.

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Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Sen. John Sununu (R-N.H.) are asking Congress to allow Lebanese nationals already in the U.S. to stay for a year because of the Israeli-Hezbullah fighting in Lebanon.

from the senators…


[WASHINGTON, DC] In response to the crisis in Lebanon, U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and John Sununu (R-NH) today introduced bipartisan legislation, the Lebanese Temporary Protected Status Act of 2006, which would make Lebanon eligible for temporary protected status (TPS) for an initial twelve-month period. The Durbin-Sununu bill would allow Lebanese nationals currently in the United States to remain here because ongoing hostilities make it unsafe for them to return to Lebanon.

Innocent civilians are bearing the brunt of Hezbullahs provocative actions,? Durbin said. At this delicate moment in U.S.-Arab relations, giving temporary protected status to Lebanon will send a positive signal about U.S. concern for the suffering of innocent Lebanese civilians. This is an affirmative step that Congress can, and should, take to alleviate the humanitarian crisis in Lebanon.?

The war brought upon Lebanon has cost hundreds of civilian lives,? said Sununu, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Americans understand that Lebanese residents temporarily residing in the United States should not be compelled to return to a dangerous war zone. Congress must act quickly to ensure that otherwise well-intentioned immigration laws do not force Lebanese nationals to leave the country, or have their immigration status placed in legal limbo.?

Durbin and Sununu said temporary protected status can be granted to nationals of another country who are currently present in the U.S. if returning to their country would pose a serious threat to their personal safety because of ongoing armed conflict, the temporary effects of an environmental disaster, or other extraordinary and temporary conditions. TPS allows eligible nationals of designated countries to remain in the U.S. legally until TPS expires.

TPS does not lead to permanent resident status or U.S. citizenship. When the TPS designation of a country is terminated, beneficiaries revert to the same immigration status they maintained before they were granted TPS.

An alien is not eligible for TPS if he has committed a felony or two or more misdemeanors or if the Department of Homeland Security determines that he poses a threat to national security. The Department of Homeland Security may withdraw an aliens temporary protected status if it is determined that the alien was ineligible for TPS at the time such status was granted to the individual.

Durbin and Sununu said that in the current climate, it is unsafe for Lebanese nationals to return to Lebanon. The United Nations estimates that 700,000 people have been displaced from their homes. According to Catholic Relief Services, many of those who have been displaced have taken refuge in mosques, churches and schools. The stocks of basic food and relief items, including much needed medicines, are dwindling.

Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Russ Feingold (D-WI) are also original cosponsors of the legislation.

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