U.S. Senator Advocates Permanent Resident Status For Liberians

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

October 2, 2002

U.S. Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island, whose State is home to thousands of Liberian refuges, says he is pleased with a decision by the Bush Administration decision on September 26 to extend for one more year the legal stay of over 10,000 Liberians in the U.S. under Temporary Protective Status (TPS), but thinks Liberian families in Rhode Island and elsewhere in the U.S. could be better off with a permanent resident status.

"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", a press release from Senator Reed’s office quoted him as saying after U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft notified him by phone about the one-year extension of the legal temporary stay of Liberians in the U.S.

Since 1992, the Liberian refugees in the U.S. have had to rely on annual reprieves from the President of the United States to extend their legal right to remain in the United States for one more year, and this year their legal status was to expire on Saturday, September 28, 2002, the press release said.

"These good people ...make positive contributions 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…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”, Senator Reed was further quoted as saying.

Senator Reed, a Democrat and sponsor of the Liberian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act of 2001 intended to grant permanent resident status to Liberians, said he was also pleased that the Liberians were granted extended stay in the U.S. under TPS status rather than the Delayed Enforced Departure (DED) that the Liberians have been under since September 1999. This change in status is an acknowledgment by the Bush Administration that the situation has deteriorated so drastically in Liberia that the Liberians need to be in America, the release said.

The Senator said he has noticed that it was very troubling to many Liberian parents that if they are deported they will be forced to decide whether to leave their U.S. born children in the safety and comfort of the United States or take the children with them to the dangers of Liberia. He argued that Liberians, first granted TPS status in 1991, have remained in "immigration limbo" longer than a few groups who have received protected status.

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, the release said.

It said 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" the release said, adding "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."

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