Another Last Minute Bitter-Sweet Victory for Liberians

(A Press Release Issued by Senator Jack Reed Office on September 26, 2002)

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

October 1, 2002

WASHINGTON - Just two days before their legal right to stay in the United States was to expire, Attorney General John Ashcroft notified U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) by telephone this afternoon that President Bush has granted 10,000 Liberians permission to remain in the country for one more year under Temporary Protected Status. Each year since 1992, these Liberians have relied on a reprieve from the White House extending their legal right to remain in the United States for one more year. This year their status was to expire on Saturday, September 28, 2002.

Reed stated, "Every September, thousands of Liberians are forced to anxiously wait until the last minute to learn that they have one more short year in the United States. While I am extremely pleased that the President has extended their ability to remain in the US, it is frustrating that these families continue to live in limbo and today's action ensures uncertainty and disruption again next year."

The Temporary Protected Status (TPS) is a change from the Delayed Enforced Departure (DED) that the Liberians have been under since September 1999. This change in status is an acknowledgment by the administration that the situation has deteriorated so drastically that the Liberians need to be in America.

In 1989, over 10,000 Liberians fled to the United States when civil war broke out in Liberia. In 1991, President George Bush's Attorney General, William Barr, granted Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to these Liberians, providing temporary relief from deportation while the conflict prevented their safe return home. For the next eight years, the Attorney General annually renewed this TPS status. In July 1999, President Clinton's Attorney General, Janet Reno, announced that this TPS designation would end on September 28, 1999. In September 1999 , President Clinton granted Liberians living in the United States a one year Delayed Enforced Departure (DED). That status was extended again in September 2000 and 2001.

To end this yearly cycle of last minute reprieves, Reed has introduced the Liberian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act of 2001, S. 656, a bill to grant permanent residency to Liberians.

Liberia remains unstable. Cyril Allen, chairman of Liberia's ruling party expressed his doubt that free legislative and presidential elections, scheduled for 2003, will be held on time due to "complexities in the country."

Agence France Presse reported recently that Allen called for emergency rule, saying "UN sanctions, the war in Lofa and a gloomy economic situation warranted stern action."

Agence France Presse also reported that Liberian President Charles Taylor maintains that "Monrovia would not hesitate to impose a state of emergency if the situation so warranted."

"These good people who make positive contributes to American society. They have been living, working, and paying taxes, in the United States — some for a decade or more - and have been ineligible for the benefits afforded to other tax payers," Reed stated. "They are quality members of our communities, are homeowners, property owners and business owners. Many are professionals who have started families and have children who are American citizens."

Very troubling to many Liberian parents is that if they are deported they will be forced to decide whether to leave their US born children in the safety and comfort of the United States or bring them with them to the dangers of Liberia.

Few groups who have received protected status have remained in this immigration limbo longer than the Liberians. In the time since the Liberians left their homeland because of a bloody civil war, Congress has passed a law allowing 4,996 Poles, 387 Ugandans, 565 Afghanis and 1,180 Ethiopians to adjust their status. The 102nd Congress passed a law to change their status of over 50,000 Chinese nationals who had been granted DED after the Tiananmen Square massacre. And when Congress passed legislation known as NACARA, 150,000 Nicaraguans, 5,000 Cubans, 200,000 El Salvadorans and 50,000 Guatemalans also became eligible to change their status.

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