Refugees Given More Time to Leave S. Texas

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Associated Press

A judge Wednesday extended for three weeks the period in which Central American asylum-seekers can leave South Texas, where an immigration policy was blamed for trapping hundreds in desperate conditions.

U.S. District Judge Filemon Vela postponed until Jan. 31 a hearing in a lawsuit filed last week against the Immigration and Naturalization Service. The hearing had been scheduled for today, when a temporary restraining order against the INS policy was to expire.

The order issued Monday restored the right for asylum-seekers to travel to U.S. destinations while their cases are resolved, a right they will retain until the rescheduled hearing.


Hundreds Stage Exodus

The order inspired an exodus of hundreds of Central Americans from the Lower Rio Grande Valley.

“It’s something fine for us, because we can go be with our families, and here in the valley we don’t have anybody,” said Ana Rodriguez, a 23-year-old Honduran headed for Austin, where she has relatives.

The Dec. 16 INS policy under fire required asylum-seekers to stay close to the application center nearest their point of entry while their requests are considered. Many Central Americans enter the United States in southern Texas and file their requests at the busy center in Harlingen.

The policy left Rodriguez and other aliens unable to leave the area, where they resorted to living in primitive camps, abandoned buildings and church shelters.