Pennsylvania Democrats and Republicans Must avert Delaware Valley Refugee Crisis

Press Release Issued by Universal Human Rights International


The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

November 17, 2003

As thanksgiving and winter approach, worries within the Pennsylvania Liberian community is deepening for the safety and welfare of thousands of Liberian refugees without Temporary Protected Status, TPS, refugee status, political asylum, green card or US citizenship residing in the Delaware Valley. For the present dangers of lack of access to the basic necessities for life, Torli Krua, Chairman of the Liberian National Immigration Commission this weekend called for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, to re-designation of Temporary Protected Status for all Liberian refugees currently in the United States. Mr. Krua spoke at the inauguration of Mr. Garrison Togbah, President of the Liberian Community Association of Pennsylvania. Dr. Amos Sawyer, former Interim President was keynote speaker. Among the 10,000 Liberians in need of this temporary relief are parents recently evacuated with their minor American-born children from Liberia on June 8.

A dangerous escalation of fighting in Liberia this summer resulted in the deaths of hundreds of Liberians. The U.S. led the international community in the deployment of thousands of U.S. Marines, the evacuation of hundreds of foreign nationals and Liberians with American-born children, as well as approval of plans for the largest UN peacekeeping mission in the world, to tackle ongoing hostilities.

On Aug. 7, the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services announced renewal of TPS for Liberians in the United States. More than 10,000 Liberians in the United States because of the ongoing civil war were disqualified by BICIS, thus triggering a refugee crisis in America. The secretary of Homeland Security [has legal authority] to grant TPS to aliens in the United States who are nationals of countries that are subject to ongoing armed conflict and temporary conditions, a BCIS Aug. 7 news release said.

"After reviewing country conditions and consulting with the Department of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security has determined that armed conflict persists in Liberia and requiring the return of its nationals would pose a serious threat to their personal safety," BCIS said. [But] the BCIS relief did not cover all qualified Liberians currently in the United States. No mention is made of relief for people evacuated this summer from Liberia to the USA and other Liberians directly affected in 2003.

BCIS eligibility guidelines must assist all vulnerable nationals whom TPS was created to protect. In 1990, Congress established a procedure by which the Attorney General of the United States may provide Temporary Protected Status, TPS to non-citizens who are temporarily unable to return to their homeland because of ongoing armed conflict, or other extraordinary and temporary conditions. Consistent with this procedure, registration for TPS was open for six months; and all Liberians who were in the country prior to the renewal of TPS each year were eligible.

This argument was made [in August] by Eduardo Aguirre, director of BCIS: "Extending TPS to Liberians for another year is both the practical and humane thing to do, and it underscores this administration's commitment to assisting the war-torn nation in its recovery."

Beyond the temporary relief for one year, Congress needs to find a permanent solution to the limbo that Liberians in the United States have experienced in the past decade because of the lack of permanent-immigrant status. Congress has passed similar legislations for other nationals similarly situated to acquire permanent residency: 50,000 Chinese after the Tiananmen Square Massacre, 150,000 Nicaraguans and 200,000 Salvadorans, to name a few. Given the humanitarian disaster in Liberia, historical and cultural links to the United States, Liberians deserve similar treatment.

Two bills introduced in Congress, the Liberian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act, S656 and the Liberians Refugee Immigration Protection Act, HR1930, if passed would grant the Liberians permanent residence status. Congressman Chaka Fattah sponsored a similar bill last year. This year, however, the Pennsylvania congressional delegation is yet to co-sponsor the bills. Given the large Liberian population in Pennsylvania, it’s a humanitarian concern, which requires to attention of Republicans and Democrats. In states with large Liberian populations such as Rhode Island, Democrats and Republicans join together to co-sponsor the Liberian Refugee Fairness Act. It is critical that Pennsylvania Democrats and Republicans support these bills and help avert a crisis this winter.