WASHINGTON, DC -- In an effort to prevent thousands of Liberians living legally in the United States from being deported, members of Congress led by U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) and Congressman David Cicilline (D-RI), are introducing the Liberian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act to allow eligible Liberians to apply for permanent residency and provide them with a pathway to citizenship.
The West African nation of Liberia, which was founded as a colony in 1822 by freed slaves from the United States, was plagued by a brutal civil war in the 1990s and more recently by a major Ebola outbreak. As part of its humanitarian response, the United States offered certain Liberians an opportunity to live, work, and pay taxes in the United States under the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) systems, extended by both Republican and Democratic administrations beginning in 1991.
However, last year, President Trump terminated DED for Liberian beneficiaries, setting up a March 31, 2019 deadline.
“Many Liberians came to America to escape violence, instability, and disease and are now pillars of our communities. They are making important economic and civic contributions and should be allowed to stay. Some who were brought here as children have grown up and now have children of their own who are U.S. citizens. Instead of splitting up families and deporting them to a far off land where they no longer have a home, these folks should have the opportunity to stay, play by the rules, and get on a pathway to citizenship,” said Senator Reed, who originally introduced the Liberian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act in 1999 and has reintroduced the bill in every session of Congress since that time. “The clock is ticking. The United States should act and this bill will help provide stability to families facing an uncertain future and possible deportation.”
“Rhode Island is home to a strong, vibrant Liberian community. Many came here in the wake of unspeakable violence in their home country. It is shameful that President Trump wants them to now choose between leaving the United States voluntarily or facing the threat of deportation,” said Congressman Cicilline. “This is a commonsense bill that will stop the administration from tearing apart even more immigrant families than they already have. It will give Liberians living in Rhode Island and across America an opportunity to apply for permanent residency and, eventually, a path to citizenship.”
Without passage of this legislation or another extension, thousands of Liberian residents across the country could face the risk of deportation on March 31st.
Original cosponsors of the Senate bill include Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Tina Smith (D-MN), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI).
Original cosponsors of the House bill include Jim Langevin (RI-02), Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), Jim McGovern (MA-02), Ilhan Omar (MN-05), Dean Phillips (MN-03), and Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC-AL).
Rhode Island has one of the largest populations of Liberians per capita, and Senator Reed has been working since 1999 to allow this community to legally remain in the United States. Many members of the Liberian community in the United States financially assist families and communities back in Liberia and make important contributions to Liberia’s reform and development. Liberia’s nascent recovery efforts could be reversed if these remittances end, harming the United States’ foreign policy interests in the region.
“I will continue to advocate for the Administration to change course and extend legal status for Liberians. In the meantime, I call on Congress to end this uncertainty for Liberians by taking up and passing the Liberian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act,” Reed concluded.