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Legal Status Sought for WTC Victims

December 19, 2001

NEW YORK (AP) _ A coalition of unions and immigrants’ rights groups called Tuesday for the federal government to grant legal status to the families of undocumented workers who died at the World Trade Center.

``Among the countless victims as well as the countless heroes of the World Trade Center attacks were immigrant workers, both documented and undocumented,″ said Hector Figueroa, secretary-treasurer of the Service Employees International Union Local 32B-32J.

Figueroa said relatives of illegal immigrants who died in the attack ``have earned the right to get as much assistance as possible and to be immediately granted citizenship or legal status.″

To do that would require special legislation from Congress. Members of the congressional delegations in New York and New Jersey have said they are willing to study the issue.

Advocacy groups also say thousands of illegal immigrants who were paid in cash and are ineligible for unemployment payments lost their jobs after Sept. 11.

At a news conference timed to coincide with International Migrants Day observed at the United Nations, speakers described losing loved ones or jobs in the attack.

Hadidjatore Traore of the Ivory Coast said her husband, a cook at the trade center’s Windows on the World restaurant, wanted only ``to have a nice house and live peacefully with his family and to be legal in this country.″

``But all his dreams died with him when he died on Sept. 11 at the World Trade Center,″ she said, speaking in French through an interpreter.

Oscar Rojas, who worked in another restaurant at the trade center, said he was lucky enough not to lose his life but he has had a hard time applying for government aid to help his family until he finds another job.

``I’m asking the Congress of the United States to take notice of us, to grant us once and for all permanent residency so we can work legally in this country,″ he said.

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