Thousands of Liberians who were counting down days before their fates could have been tossed up for mass deportations by the Department of Homeland Security, have been told they can stay for another 12 months.
Rhode Island Senator Jack Reed, the leading proponent for Legislation to grant Liberians the path to citizenship, confirmed late Friday that President Barack Obama have granted a stay for tens of thousands of Liberian on temporary documents across the United States.
“I am pleased that President Obama is extending Deferred Enforced Departure for Liberians living legally in the United States,” said Sen. Jack Reed. “This extension will prevent thousands of Liberians from being separated from their families and deported back to a country still rife with economic, social and political tensions,” Sen. Reed told The Providence Journal.
An estimated 250,000 Liberians live in the United States , including up to 15,000 in the state of Rhode Island , making that community, not Minnesota , the largest per-capita Liberian community in the country.
Among them are 3,600 nationwide who have “temporary protected status,” a political profile for nationals of countries that are deemed by the U.S. government to be to unsafe to return to due to armed conflicts or environmental disasters.
For the past 10 years, Reed has been seeking legislation that would allow people who were brought to the United States under the temporary status to apply for citizenship.
He called Obama’s extension order “a critical step towards ensuring that hard-working people who have paid taxes and contributed to our communities are not forced to leave their homes.” He added, “In the long-term, we need to pass comprehensive immigration reform that once again includes my measure to allow Liberians to apply for citizenship.”
Congressman Patrick J. Kennedy also praised the president’s decision.
“This measure will ensure that the hard-working Liberian-Americans in Rhode Island and across the country will be able to remain in the United States . They have contributed to our society for more than a decade, becoming active members of our communities and providing for their families,” said Kennedy.
Mator Kpangbai, former president of the Liberian Association of Rhode Island, said Obama’s decision was “great news.” He said the decision provides another opportunity for Liberians to renew their case for permanent legal status.
U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat, told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that a bill was introduced in Congress on Thursday night that would do that, ending the limbo and annual petition for extensions that have been going on for years.