Florida Congressman helps Indian teachers resolve visa issue

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New York, Mar 7 (UNI) A Congressman from Florida has played a key role in helping avert the near imminent deportation of 16 Indian teachers.

The teachers mostly from Tamil Nadu and Kerala whose visas expired on February 9 got them extended and are now allowed to live and work in the US till mid 2008. They returned to their classes late last month in St Lucie County School District, where they had been teaching before they were served the deportation orders.

The teachers' group came to the United States in August after being sponsored under a programme by the Florida Atlantic University (FAU), according to the Congressman's press office.

The pilot programme was launched to meet an acute shortage of teachers in mathematics and science in the state. Indian-American professor Rangasamy Ramasamy, who teaches at FAU, had devised the programme.

The FAU had brought the teachers from India on an Exchange Visitor visa, which expired on February 9. The teachers, attached to six schools in the district, stopped working and hence have not received pay for nearly two weeks.

The Democratic Party Congressman Tim Mahoney, from Florida's 16th district, was present at the school district office, where the news of the extension of the visas was announced. St Lucie County Schools Superintendent Mike Lannon and Ramasamy were present on the occasion.

''I am pleased that this situation has been resolved positively for all involved parties teachers, students and community. Being part of an effort that makes a difference in the lives of our students is something that makes me proud,'' Mr Mahoney said, according to a transcript of the Congressman's remarks available with his office.

''I know the students and teachers are both looking forward to their teachers returning to the classrooms and this special opportunity to learn from such a fine group of individuals. The extension will take the teachers through the end of the school year,'' added the Congressman.

The congressman, Lannon and others are working for the return of the Indian teachers for the next academic year.

The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, a wing of the US State Department, criticised the FAU for giving ''poverty'' wages to the teachers, who all have master's degree and years of experience.

But according to FAU President Frank Brogan, the teachers were expected to be paid their regular salary of 36,000 dollars (annual rate) only from January.

Mr Brogan said he would make sure the visa discrepancy and other issues would not be repeated in the future. On his part the Congressman assured the teachers that he would help them in case of any need.

UNI XC SZ RAI1037

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