WASHINGTON, DC -In an effort to prevent thousands of Liberians living legally in the United States from being deported, U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) reintroduced the Liberian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act (S. 656). This legislation would allow eligible Liberians to whom the United States granted Temporary Protection Status (TPS) to apply for permanent residency.
In the 1990s, a brutal civil war in Liberia killed more than 150,000 people and more than one-half of the population fled the country or became internally displaced. As part of its humanitarian response to the conflict, the United States extended TPS -- a cross between political asylum and refugee status -- to Liberians who were able to flee the fighting and settle in America.
"Many Liberians who came to America to escape a violent civil war are now pillars of our communities. They are here legally, making important economic and civic contributions to our community and should be allowed to stay. They continue to work hard, play by the rules, and pay their taxes. Some who were brought here as young refugees now have children of their own who are U.S. citizens, and are currently serving in the U.S. military. Instead of relying on short-term extensions to avoid deportation, these folks should have the opportunity to apply for permanent residency," said 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. "This bill will prevent these families from being torn apart and give them the opportunity to live permanently in the place they love and call home."
Since 1991, Liberians have relied on short-term provisions of TPS or Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) from both Republican and Democratic administrations to extend their legal right to remain in the United States. These individuals, many of whom have been in the United States since fleeing Liberia in the late 1980's and early 1990's, have retained a legal status which allows them to live, work, and pay taxes in the United States.
On March 18, 2010, at the urging of Senator Reed, Congressman Ellison, and many of their colleagues in Congress, President Obama announced that DED statusfor Liberian nationals was extended to September 30, 2011.
Without the passage of this legislation or another short-term extension, thousands of Liberian residents across the country will face mass-deportation on October 1st.
Original cosponsors of Senator Reed's bill include Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Al Franken (D-MN), John Kerry (D-MA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI).
A companion bill to Senator Reed's legislation was introduced yesterday in the U.S. House of Representatives by Congressman Keith Ellison (D-MN).