Senators Defend Liberians’ Status in the U.S.

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United States Senator Jack Reed along with fourteen others has asked President Barack Obama to extend the Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) for Liberians legally living in that country.

According to a statement from Washington DC, Senator Jack Reed is joined by Senators Charles Schumer of New York, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, Chris Coons of Delaware and Robert Menendez of New Jersey.

Others are Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Dick Durbin of Illinois, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Ben Cardin of Maryland, Cory Booker of New Jersey, Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Al Franken of Minnesota. Also Barbara Mikulski of Maryland and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York are part of the group championing the status of Liberians legally living in the United States.

The current DED extension is set to expire on September 30, 2014, which could cause Liberians living there on temporary status to be deported.

In their appeal, the Senators are of the view that Liberians have worked hard, played by the rules, paid U.S. taxes, and made positive contributions to the society and communities in which they are.

According to them, Liberians legally went to America to escape the brutal civil war that was in Liberia and to seek a better life for their children, many of whom are American citizens.

 “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,” the Senators said.

Senator Reed’s Act under the title “Liberian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act,” seeks to also provide Liberians the opportunity to apply for permanent residency and begin the process of becoming US citizens.

“They are here legally and should be given the chance to stay.  Instead of threatening deportation and splitting up families, or forcing them to rely on short-term extensions, in the long term, we should provide eligible Liberians with the opportunity to apply for permanent residency and begin the process of becoming citizens,” said Senator Reed.

Since 1991, Liberians have relied on short-term provisions of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) or DED from Presidents of both political parties 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 that allows them to live, work, and pay taxes in the United States.

 On March 15, 2013, 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. 

Additionally, last month, the Senate Appropriations Committee, on which Reed serves, unanimously approved the fiscal year 2015 Homeland Security Appropriations bill, which includes report language Reed requested that encourages 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.

The senators wrote: “The current system of short-term DED renewals leaves Liberians and their families with perennial uncertainty about whether they will be able to remain members of the communities they have come to call home.  For this reason, while we urge you to grant a lengthy extension of at least two years and to make this announcement well in advance of the current DED expiration, we continue to call for comprehensive immigration reform that includes an adjustment to permanent resident status for qualifying Liberians and their families.”

Initiative taken by Senator Reed and his colleague gives a high level of hope to hundreds of thousands of Liberians who fled from the war and political instability in Liberia and are now living in the United States.

Many lost their parents during the war while a lot of them cannot afford to live in Liberia due to difficulties associated with finding job and high poverty rate.

Deporting them under the DED to return would also add to difficulties some relatives living in Liberia are facing, and it would yield to unwanted criminal activities that are already rampant in the Liberian society.

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