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Bernice Lee, a former resident of Montserrat, rearranges rental shoes at Allan's Formal Wear. (Staff Photo by Robert Eng)
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Most U.S. immigrants seek home, not harm

Feds order deportation to destroyed isle
By Herald staff
Wednesday, February 9, 2005

Ten years after nearly 300 refugees arrived in the United States, fleeing a volcano that destroyed homes and poisoned the air on the West Indies island of Montserrat, federal authorities are telling them it's time to go home.
     ``That doesn't make any sense to me,'' said Montserrat native John Lee of Mattapan, whose sister, Bernice, must return to the devastated island at the end of the month or face deportation.
     ``She's 67. There's no one to go back to,'' said Lee, a U.S. citizen since 1965. ``We still have property there, but our entire village is uninhabitable. I don't know what she'll do if she goes back.''
     The Department of Homeland Security announced in July that temporary protected status granted to 292 refugees in the late 1990s was no longer appropriate, even though conditions on Montserrat are described by the State Department as still unsafe for resettlement.
     Montserrat's volcano erupted in 1995, forcing approximately 8,000 of the island's 9,200 residents to flee and destroying two-thirds of the island. Between 40 and 60 refugees settled in Boston, renewing their temporary status annually, while the island's situation grew worse. The volcano may continue to spew ash for decades.
      Facing the Feb. 27 deadline, refugees, their families, politicians and community groups are petitioning the Bush administration to reconsider. Pending legislation in Congress would offer permanent residency to the Montserratians.
     ``I was there two years ago, and it was still very bad,'' said Janis Galloway, a Montserrat native working with the Cooperative Metropolitan Ministries to fight the decision. ``There is nothing there. The shops are covered with ash. The port is inaccessible.''