US Lawmakers Introduce Bill to Stop Mass Deportation of Liberians from the United States

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Monrovia – Two Democratic Party lawmakers of Rhode Island have reintroduced the Liberian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act, which aims to allow eligible Liberians to apply for permanent residency and provide them with a pathway to citizenship.

The bill by Senator Jack Reed and Congressman David Cicilline aims to prevent Liberians, whose temporary status in the US will soon expire, avoid deportation. 

Thousands of Liberians have been living in the United States since the outbreak of the civil war that claimed 250,000 lives. Some of them have also held temporary status due to the outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus in 2014.

As part of its humanitarian response, the US government offered certain Liberians an opportunity to live, work, and pay taxes in the United States under the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) systems, extended by both Republican and Democrat administrations beginning 1991.

However, in 2018 President Trump terminated the DED for Liberian beneficiaries, setting up a March 31, 2019 deadline.

But in the bill, the lawmakers outlined the significance of extending the status of Liberians.

“Many Liberians came to America to escape violence, instability, and disease and are now pillars of our communities.  They are making important economic and civic contributions and should be allowed to stay,” said Senator Reed. 

“Some who were brought here as children have grown up and now have children of their own who are U.S. citizens.  Instead of splitting up families and deporting them to a far off land where they no longer have a home, these folks should have the opportunity to stay, play by the rules, and get on a pathway to citizenship.” 

Reed, who introduced the Act in 1999 and has done so every session of Congress since that time, says the “clock is ticking”, suggesting that the bill will help provide “stability to families facing an uncertain future and possible deportation.”

At the same time, Congressman Cicilline stressed that “Rhode Island is home to a “strong, vibrant Liberian community” that has turned the place their home when Liberia was facing “unspeakable violence”.

“It is shameful that President Trump wants them to now choose between leaving the United States voluntarily or facing the threat of deportation,” said Congressman Cicilline. 

“This is a commonsense bill that will stop the administration from tearing apart even more immigrant families than they already have.  It will give Liberians living in Rhode Island and across America an opportunity to apply for permanent residency and, eventually, a path to citizenship.”

Without passage of this legislation or another extension, thousands of Liberians across the US could face the risk of deportation on March 31st.

Original cosponsors of the Senate bill include Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Tina Smith (D-MN), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI).

Original cosponsors of the House bill include Jim Langevin (RI-02), Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), Jim McGovern (MA-02), Ilhan Omar (MN-05), Dean Phillips (MN-03), and Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC-AL).

Rhode Island has one of the largest populations of Liberians per capita, and Senator Reed has been working since 1999 to give the community legal status.

Many members of the Liberian community in the United States financially assist families and communities back home, make important contributions to Liberia’s reform and development.  

Liberia’s nascent recovery efforts could be reversed if these remittances end, harming the United States’ foreign policy interests in the region, according to some US media.

“I will continue to advocate for the Administration to change course and extend legal status for Liberians.  In the meantime, I call on Congress to end this uncertainty for Liberians by taking up and passing the Liberian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act,” Reed concluded.

VACANCY ANNOUNCEMENT

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