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< Back to current issue of Immigration Daily < Back to current issue of Immigrant's Weekly

[Federal Register: September 3, 2003 (Volume 68, Number 170)]
[Notices]               
[Page 52407-52410]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
[DOCID:fr03se03-57]                         

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY

Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services

[CIS No. 2294-03]
RIN 1650-AB06

 
Termination of the Designation of Sierra Leone Under the 
Temporary Protected Status Program; Extension of Employment 
Authorization Documentation

AGENCY: Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services, Homeland 
Security.

ACTION: Notice.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

SUMMARY: The designation of Sierra Leone under the Temporary Protected 
Status (TPS) Program will expire on November 2, 2003. After reviewing 
country conditions and consulting with the appropriate Government 
agencies, the Secretary of Homeland Security has determined that 
conditions in Sierra Leone no longer support TPS designation and is 
therefore terminating the TPS designation of Sierra Leone. This 
termination is effective May 3, 2004, six months from the end of the 
current extension. To provide for an orderly transition, nationals of 
Sierra Leone (and aliens having no nationality who last habitually 
resided in Sierra Leone) who have been granted TPS under the Sierra 
Leone designation or redesignation will automatically retain their 
temporary protected status and have their current Employment 
Authorization Documents (EADs) extended until the termination date. 
However, an individual's TPS may still be withdrawn because of 
ineligibility for TPS, prior failure to timely re-register if there was 
not good cause for such failure, or failure to maintain continuous 
physical presence in the United States. On May 3, 2004, nationals of 
Sierra Leone (and aliens having no nationality who last habitually 
resided in Sierra Leone) who have been granted TPS under the Sierra

[[Page 52408]]

Leone designation or redesignation will no longer have TPS status.

EFFECTIVE DATE: The TPS designation of Sierra Leone is terminated 
effective May 3, 2004.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Jonathan Mills, Residence and Status 
Services, Office of Programs and Regulations, Bureau of Citizenship and 
Immigration Services, Department of Homeland Security, 425 ``I'' 
Street, NW., Room 3040, Washington, DC 20536, telephone (202) 514-4754.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

What Authority Does the Secretary of the Department of Homeland 
Security Have To Terminate the Designation of Sierra Leone Under the 
TPS Program?

    On March 1, 2003, the functions of the Immigration and 
Naturalization Service (Service) transferred from the Department of 
Justice to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) pursuant to the 
Homeland Security Act of 2002, Public Law 107-296. The responsibilities 
for administering the TPS program held by the Service were transferred 
to the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services (BCIS).
    Under section 244 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (Act), 8 
U.S.C. 1254a, the Secretary of DHS, after consultation with appropriate 
agencies of the Government, is authorized to designate a foreign state 
or (part thereof) for TPS. The Secretary of DHS may then grant TPS to 
eligible nationals of that foreign state (or aliens having no 
nationality who last habitually resided in that state).
    Section 244(b)(3)(A) of the Act requires the Secretary of DHS to 
review, at least 60 days before the end of the TPS designation or any 
extension thereof, the conditions in a foreign state designated under 
the TPS program to determine whether the conditions for a TPS 
designation continue to be met and, if so, the length of an extension 
of TPS. 8 U.S.C. 1254a(b)(3)(A). If the Secretary of DHS determines 
that the foreign state no longer meets the conditions for TPS 
designation, he shall terminate the designation, but such termination 
may not take effect earlier than 60 days after the date the Federal 
Register notice of termination is published. 8 U.S.C. 1254a(b)(3)(B). 
The Secretary of DHS may determine the appropriate effective date of 
the termination in order to provide an orderly transition. 8 U.S.C. 
1254a(d)(3).

Why Did the Secretary of DHS Decide To Terminate the TPS Designation 
for Sierra Leone as of May 3, 2004?

    On November 4, 1997, the Attorney General published a notice in the 
Federal Register designating Sierra Leone under the TPS program based 
upon ongoing armed conflict occurring within the country. 62 FR 59736. 
The Attorney General extended this TPS designation annually and re-
designated Sierra Leone by publishing a notice on November 9, 1999, 
determining in each instance that the conditions warranting such 
designation continued to be met. 64 FR 61125.
    Since the date of the last extension, the Departments of Homeland 
Security and State have continued to review conditions in Sierra Leone. 
It is determined that termination of the TPS designation of Sierra 
Leone is warranted because there is no longer an ongoing armed conflict 
within Sierra Leone that would pose a serious threat to the personal 
safety of returning nationals of Sierra Leone (or aliens having no 
nationality who last habitually resided in Sierra Leone). 8 U.S.C. 
1254a(b)(1)(A) and (B).
    The Department of State (DOS) notes that the armed conflict that 
provided the basis for the Sierra Leone TPS designation is over. DOS 
Recommendation (June 19, 2003). Most of Sierra Leone has been at peace 
for nearly three years. Id. More than 66,000 ex-combatants have entered 
into a program of disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration into 
society. Id. Disarmament was largely complete by January 2002, and 
there has been no fighting since that time. Id. Peaceful multiparty 
presidential and parliamentary elections took place in May 2002. Id.
    A year ago, the overall political situation was fragile. Id. Since 
then, however, human rights abuses have decreased dramatically 
nationwide. Id. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees 
(UNHCR) considers no area of the country unsafe to return. Id. More 
than 400,000 refugees have returned home to participate in the 
reconstruction of their country. Id. Of the approximately 45,000 
refugees remaining in neighboring countries, two-thirds are expected to 
return home by December 2003. Id. In addition, reintegration of the 
300,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) is nearly complete. Id.
    While there are approximately 60,000 Liberian refugees in Sierra 
Leone, they are concentrated along the eastern border with Liberia and 
have not caused any instability in Sierra Leone. Id. Furthermore, there 
have been no recent cross-border attacks from Liberia into Sierra 
Leone. Id.
    The BCIS Resource Information Center (RIC) notes additional 
indications of stability. RIC Report (July 10, 2003). A special court 
has been created to bring to justice those most responsible for war 
crimes and other major human rights violations. Id. A Truth and 
Reconciliation Commission has been established to establish a record of 
the conflict and promote reconciliation. Id. Humanitarian and economic 
conditions have improved markedly. Id.
    The newly elected government enjoys significant international 
support and has extended police control across the country. DOS 
Recommendation. A British-trained police force is in place. RIC Report. 
The British government continues to assist and train Sierra Leone's 
10,000-member armed forces and has committed to providing significant 
support for at least six years. DOS Recommendation. The United Nations 
(U.N.) Security Council has determined that security conditions have 
improved so much that the international U.N. peacekeeping force, which 
once numbered 17,500 troops, can be phased out. Id. The peacekeeping 
force currently numbers 14,000, and will further decrease to about 
9,000 by year's end. Id.
    Based upon this review, the Secretary of DHS, after consultation 
with appropriate government agencies, finds that the conditions that 
prompted designation of Sierra Leone under the TPS program no longer 
exist. 8 U.S.C. 1254a(b)(3). There is not an ongoing armed conflict 
within Sierra Leone that would pose a serious threat to the personal 
safety of returning aliens who are nationals of Sierra Leone (or aliens 
having no nationality who last habitually resided in Sierra Leone). 8 
U.S.C. 1254a(b)(1)(A). Based upon these findings, the Secretary of DHS 
is terminating the TPS designation for Sierra Leone as of May 3, 2004. 
8 U.S.C. 1254a(b)(3)(B).
    To provide for an orderly transition, nationals of Sierra Leone 
(and aliens having no nationality who last habitually resided in Sierra 
Leone) who have been granted TPS under the Sierra Leone designation or 
redesignation will automatically retain TPS status and have their 
current employment authorization documents (EADs) extended until the 
termination date. 8 U.S.C. 1254a(a)(2) and (d)(3). These persons are 
urged to use the time before termination of their TPS to apply for any 
other immigration benefits they are eligible for or, in the 
alternative, prepare

[[Page 52409]]

for and arrange their return to Sierra Leone.

If I Currently Have TPS Through the Sierra Leone TPS Program, Do I Need 
to Re-Register To Keep My TPS Until May 3, 2004, the Termination Date?

    No. If you already have been granted TPS benefits through the 
Sierra Leone TPS program, you do not have to re-register to keep your 
TPS benefits. You will automatically retain TPS until the termination 
date. However, your TPS status may still be withdrawn pursuant to 
section 244(c)(3) of the Act because of ineligibility for TPS, prior 
failure to timely re-register if there was not good cause for such 
failure, or failure to maintain continuous physical presence in the 
United States. 8 U.S.C. 1254a(c)(3), 8 CFR 244.14. When termination 
occurs on May 3, 2004, you will no longer have TPS.

Why Is the Secretary of DHS Automatically Extending the Validity of 
EADs From November 2, 2003, to May 3, 2004?

    The Secretary of DHS has decided to extend automatically the 
validity of EADs to provide for an orderly transition leading up to the 
effective date for the termination of the Sierra Leone TPS designation. 
Therefore, the validity of the applicable EADs is extended for a period 
of 6 months, to May 3, 2004. 8 U.S.C. 1254a(a)(2) and (d)(3).

Who Is eligible To Receive an Automatic Extension of His or Her EAD?

    To receive an automatic extension of his or her EAD, an individual 
must be a national of Sierra Leone (or an alien having no nationality 
who last habitually resided in Sierra Leone) who has applied for and 
received an EAD under the TPS designation or redesignation of Sierra 
Leone. This automatic extension is limited to EADs issued on either 
Form I-766, Employment Authorization Document, or Form I-688B, 
Employment Authorization Card, bearing an expiration date of November 
2, 2003. The EAD must also be either (1) a Form I-766 bearing the 
notation ``A-12'' or ``C-19'' on the face of the card under 
``Category''; or (2) a Form I-688B bearing the notation 
``274A.12(A)(12)'' or ``274A.12(C)(19)'' on the face of the card under 
``Provision of Law''.

Must Qualified Individuals Apply for the Automatic Extension of Their 
TPS-Related EADs Until May 3, 2004?

    No. Qualified individuals do not have to apply for this extension 
of their TPS-related EADs to May 3, 2004.

What Documents May a Qualified Individual Show to His or Her Employer 
as Proof of Employment Authorization and Identity When Completing the 
Employment Eligibility Verification Form (Form I-9)?

    For completion of the Form I-9 at the time of hire or re-
verification, qualified individuals who have received an extension of 
their EADs by virtue of this Federal Register notice may present to 
their employer a TPS-related EAD as proof of identity and employment 
authorization until May 3, 2004. To minimize confusion over this 
extension at the time of hire or re-verification, qualified individuals 
may also present to their employer a copy of this Federal Register 
notice regarding the automatic extension of employment authorization 
documentation to May 3, 2004. In the alternative, any legally 
acceptable document or combination of documents listed in List A, List 
B, or List C of the Form I-9 may be presented as proof of identity and 
employment eligibility; it is the choice of the employee.

How May Employers Determine Whether an EAD Has Been Automatically 
Extended Through May 3, 2004 and Is Therefore Acceptable for Completion 
of the Form I-9?

    For purposes of verifying identity and employment eligibility or 
re-verifying employment eligibility on the Form I-9 until May 3, 2004, 
employers of Sierra Leone TPS class members whose EADs have been 
automatically extended by this notice must accept such EAD if 
presented. An EAD that has been automatically extended by this notice 
will contain an expiration date of November 2, 2003, and must be either 
(1) a Form I-766 bearing the notation ``A-12'' or ``C-19'' on the face 
of the card under ``Category'', or (2) a Form I-688B bearing the 
notation ``274A.12(A)(12)'' or ``274A.12(C)(19)'' on the face of the 
card under ``Provision of Law''. New EADs or extension stickers showing 
the May 3, 2004 expiration date will not be issued.
    Employers should not request proof of Sierra Leone citizenship. 
Employers presented with an EAD that this Federal Register notice has 
extended automatically, that appears to be genuine and appears to 
relate to the employee should accept the document as a valid ``List A'' 
document and should not ask for additional Form I-9 documentation. This 
action by the Secretary of the DHS through this Federal Register notice 
does not affect the right of an employee to present any legally 
acceptable document as proof of identity and eligibility for 
employment.
    Employers are reminded that the laws prohibiting unfair 
immigration-related employment practices remain in full force. For 
questions, employers may call the BCIS Office of Business Liaison 
Employer Hotline at 1-800-357-2099 to speak to a BCIS representative. 
Also, employers may call the U.S. Department of Justice Office of 
Special Counsel for Immigration Related Unfair Employment Practices 
(OSC) Employer Hotline at 1-800-255-8155 or 1-800-362-2735 (TDD). 
Employees or applicants may call the OSC Employee Hotline at 1-800-255-
7688 or 1-800-237-2515 (TDD) for information regarding the automatic 
extension. Additional information is available on the OSC Web site at 
http://www.usdoj.gov/crt/osc/index.html.

What May I Do if I Believe That Returning to Sierra Leone Would Be 
Unsafe?

    This notice terminates the designation of Sierra Leone for TPS. For 
nationals of Sierra Leone (and aliens having no nationality who last 
habitually resided in Sierra Leone) in the United States who believe 
that their particular circumstances make return to Sierra Leone unsafe, 
there may be avenues of immigration relief and protection available. 
Such avenues may include, but are not limited to, asylum, withholding 
of removal, or protection under Article 3 of the Torture Convention.
    Eligibility for these and other immigration benefits is determined 
individually on a case-by-case basis. For information on eligibility 
and how to apply, visit the BCIS web site at http://www.bcis.gov or 
call the BCIS National Customer Service Center at 1-800-375-5283.

How Does the Termination of TPS Affect Former TPS Beneficiaries?

    After the designation of Sierra Leone for TPS is terminated on May 
3, 2004, former TPS beneficiaries will maintain the same immigration 
status they held prior to TPS (unless that status has since expired or 
been terminated) or any other status they may have acquired while 
registered for TPS. Accordingly, if an alien held no lawful immigration 
status prior to receiving TPS benefits and did not obtain any other 
status during the TPS period, he or she will maintain that

[[Page 52410]]

unlawful status upon the termination of the TPS designation.
    Former TPS beneficiaries will no longer be eligible for a stay of 
removal or an EAD pursuant to the TPS program. TPS-related EADs will 
expire on May 3, 2004, and will not be renewed.
    Termination of the TPS designation for Sierra Leone does not 
necessarily affect pending applications for other forms of immigration 
relief or protection, though former TPS beneficiaries will begin to 
accrue unlawful presence as of May 3, 2004, if they have not been 
granted any other immigration status or protection or if they have no 
pending application for certain benefits.

Notice of Termination of Designation of Sierra Leone Under the TPS 
Program

    By the authority vested in me as Secretary of the Department of 
Homeland Security under section 244(b)(3) of the Act, I have consulted 
with the appropriate agencies of government concerning conditions in 
Sierra Leone. 8 U.S.C. 1254a(b)(3). Based on these consultations, I 
have determined that Sierra Leone no longer meets the conditions for 
designation of TPS under section 244(b)(1) of the Act. 8 U.S.C. 
1254a(b)(1).
    Accordingly, I order as follows:
    (1) Pursuant to sections 244(b) of the Act, the TPS designation of 
Sierra Leone for TPS terminated effective May 3, 2004, six months from 
the end of the current extension.
    (2) I estimate that there are approximately 2,700 nationals of 
Sierra Leone (and aliens having no nationality who last habitually 
resided in Sierra Leone) who currently receive TPS benefits.
    (3) To provide for an orderly transition, nationals of Sierra Leone 
(and aliens having no nationality who last habitually resided in Sierra 
Leone) who have been granted TPS under the Sierra Leone designation or 
redesignation will automatically retain temporary protected status 
until the termination date. However, an individual's TPS may still be 
withdrawn pursuant to section 244(c)(3) of the Immigration and 
Nationality Act and 8 CFR 244.14 because of ineligibility for TPS, 
prior failure to timely re-register if there was not good cause for 
such failure, or failure to maintain continuous physical presence in 
the United States.
    (4) TPS-related Employment Authorization Documents that expire on 
November 2, 2003, are extended automatically until May 3, 2004, for 
qualified nationals of Sierra Leone (and aliens having no nationality 
who last habitually resided in Sierra Leone).
    (5) Information concerning the termination of the TPS program for 
nationals of Sierra Leone (and aliens having no nationality who last 
habitually resided in Sierra Leone) will be available at local BCIS 
offices upon publication of this notice and through the BCIS National 
Customer Service Center at 1-800-375-5283. This information will also 
be published on the BCIS Web site at http://www.bcis.gov.

    Dated: August 28, 2003.
Tom Ridge,
Secretary of Homeland Security.
[FR Doc. 03-22488 Filed 8-29-03; 11:16 am]
BILLING CODE 4410-10-P




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