NEW: Reed, Whitehouse Seek to Avoid Deportation of Liberians
Tuesday, January 08, 2013
U.S. Senator Jack Reed led a letter signed by 15 of his colleagues, including fellow Rhode Island counterpart Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, to President Obama urging an extension and expansion of Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) which, if not extended beyond the current deadline of Mar. 31, could lead to the deportation of as many as a few thousand Liberians living legally in the United States.
Senators joining Reed in sending the letter include: Charles Schumer (D-NY), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Al Franken (D-MN), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), and Chris Coons (D-DE).
“Liberians have worked hard, played by the rules, paid U.S. taxes, and made positive contributions to our communities,” Reed said. “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. They are here legally and should be given the chance to stay.”
Reed expressed concerns for security tensions in Liberia if the extension does not go through.
“The forced repatriation of Liberians from the United States would … threaten the country’s post-war recovery efforts,” he said. “This extension will prevent these families from being torn apart while Congress pursues a permanent solution.”
"Liberians who have been living in Rhode Island and around the United States for years shouldn't be forced to pack their bags and return to a country in distress," Senator Whitehouse said. "I have consistently supported efforts to allow these Liberians to live and work in America with their families, and will continue to do so."
According to a press release issued this morning, many of the Liberians in question have relief for over two decades on short-term provisions of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) or DED from the White House in an effort to remain in the United States.
Many of the individuals have been in the United States since fleeing Liberia in the late 1980's and early 1990's and have retained a legal status which allows them to live, work, and pay taxes in the United States.
The group of Senators also asked the president to include permanent resident status for qualifying Liberians in comprehensive immigration reform, a topic Obama has stated will be a top priority for his administration in its second term.
“In the short term, we need to lift the March deadline and extend DED,” Reed said. “In the long term, we need to fix our immigration laws and extend permanent residency to Liberians who have been living here and playing by the rules.”
The current extension, which expires at the end of March, was signed into law by Obama in August of 2011 and gave Liberians in the U.S. and 18-month extension of their legal immigration status.