WASHINGTON, DC - In an effort to preserve the status of Liberians living legally in the United States, U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) today led a letter signed by fourteen of his colleagues to President Obama urging an extension and expansion of Deferred Enforced Departure (DED).  Thousands of Liberians could be deported if their temporary status is not extended beyond the September 30, 2011 deadline.

Senators joining Reed in sending the letter include: Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Al Franken (D-MN), Charles Schumer (D-NY), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Chris Coons (D-DE), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY).

“Liberians have worked hard, played by the rules, paid U.S. taxes, and made positive contributions to our communities.  They legally came to America to escape a brutal civil war and seek a better life for their children, many of whom are American citizens.  They are here legally and should be given the chance to stay,” said Reed.  “The forced repatriation of Liberians from the United States would increase security tensions in Liberia and threaten the country’s post-war recovery efforts.  This extension will prevent these families from being torn apart while Congress pursues a permanent solution.”

Since 1991, these Liberians have relied on short-term provisions of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) or DED from the White House 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.

“In the short term, we need to lift the September deadline and extend temporary protected status.  In the long term, we need to fix our immigration laws and extend permanent residency to Liberians who have been living here and playing by the rules,” concluded Reed.

Senator Reed is the author of S.656, the Liberian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act, a bill to grant permanent residency to qualifying Liberians living legally in the United States. 

On March 189, 2010, President Obama granted Liberians in the United States an 18-month extension of their legal immigration status, which is set to expire at the end of September 2011.