WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) today cheered a decision by the Obama Administration to extend Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) for qualified people from Liberia for two years, through October 1, 2016.  The decision allows Liberians who have been legally living in the United States to stay another 24 months, bringing a protracted effort by Sen. Reed to secure the extension to a positive conclusion.  If President Obama had not approved the DED extension, many Liberians could have been eligible to be deported starting next week on September 30th, when the previous extension of DED was set to expire, sending them into the epicenter of the unprecedented Ebola outbreak currently ravaging West Africa.

Many of the Liberians living in the United States who received this DED extension fled a country engulfed in bloody civil war in the late 1980s and early 1990s that killed more than 150,000 people and displaced more than half of the population.  Since then, many built new lives in Rhode Island - having children, starting businesses, buying homes, and paying U.S. taxes.  The Ocean State is home to one of the largest Liberian populations per capita in the United States.

"This two-year extension is great news for eligible Liberians and Rhode Island’s Liberian community.  Liberia is experiencing an extremely difficult time.  Many Liberians living here are already coping with tragic news of family members and friends affected by the Ebola epidemic in their home country, and it would have been truly inhumane to tear these families apart here in the U.S. and send more individuals into one of the hardest-hit areas of this disaster.  Liberia is ill-equipped to contain this deadly outbreak on its own, and the U.S. needs to be a strong partner and help rally the international community to expand capacity to deliver basic health services in the region,” said Senator Reed.

Senator Reed introduced the Liberian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act, a bill to grant permanent residency to qualifying Liberians living legally in the United States.  He has also worked for months behind the scenes with White House, Homeland Security, and State Department officials on behalf of the Liberian community to secure this most recent DED extension from the Obama Administration.

Earlier this year, Reed successfully included report language in the fiscal year 2015 Homeland Security Appropriations bill encouraging the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to work with the White House and the U.S. Department of State to move expeditiously on considering this DED extension for Liberians.  In July, Senator Reed led a letter with 14 of his Senate colleagues urging the White House to act on a two-year extension.  He also arranged a conference call with public health officials to update the Liberian community on the Ebola outbreak back home, and raised the DED extension issue publicly during statements and questioning at relevant Senate committee hearings as recently as last week’s joint hearing on “Ebola in West Africa: A Global Challenge and Public Health Threat.”

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa, the largest in recorded history, has brought a special level of urgency and concern to this round of DED extension negotiations.  A report issued Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that in the worst-case scenario, there could be 21,000 cases of Ebola in Liberia and Sierra Leone alone by September 30th and a staggering 1.4 million cases by January 20th if the disease keeps following its existing trajectory.  The current official count stands at 5,843 persons infected with Ebola, including 2,803 deaths, according to the World Health Organization.

“I am particularly relieved that common sense and decency prevailed in this case, because deporting these families into the heart of the deadly Ebola outbreak in Liberia was not an option.  In the long-term, we still need a solution that allows them to get on a pathway to full citizenship and it is time for Congress to act on comprehensive immigration reform that gives Liberians an opportunity to remain here permanently,” said Reed.

Since 1991, thousands of Liberians have relied on Temporary Protected Status or DED being granted by Republican and Democratic Presidents to extend their legal right to remain in the United States because the conditions in their home country of Liberia were too dangerous for them to return.  While Liberians have been living, working, and paying taxes in the United States, some for more than 20 years, they have been ineligible for the benefits afforded to other taxpayers.