In an effort to preserve the status of Liberians living legally in the United States and prevent potential deportations within the community, U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) has urged President Obama to extend Deferred Enforced Departure (DED). The current DED extension is set to expire on September 30, 2016, which could cause Liberians legally living in the U.S. as refugees to be deported.
“Liberians have worked hard, played by the rules, paid U.S. taxes, and made positive contributions to our communities. They 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. Instead of threatening deportation and splitting up families, or forcing them to rely on short-term extensions of their refugee status, we should provide eligible Liberians with the opportunity to apply for permanent residency and begin the process of becoming citizens,” said Senator Reed, who has introduced the Liberian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act, a bill to grant permanent residency to qualifying Liberians living legally in the United States.
Since 1991, Liberians have relied on short-term extensions of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) or DED from Presidents of both political parties to extend their legal right to remain in the United States. These individuals, many of whom have been in the United States since fleeing a devastating civil war in Liberia in the 1980s and 90s that killed more than 150,000 people and displaced over half of the population, have retained a legal status that allows them to live, work, and pay taxes in the United States.
Earlier this year, Senator Reed led a group of eleven Senators in urging an extension of DED and TPS. Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson announced a decision to grant a 6-month extension of TPS to eligible Liberians. As a result, current TPS beneficiaries will automatically retain their TPS and have the validity of their current Employment Authorization Documents extended through May 20, 2017. Beneficiaries do not need to pay a fee or file any application, including for work authorization, in order to retain their TPS benefits through May 20, 2017.
However, the Obama Administration has yet to make a public announcement on the status of thousands of Liberians who are here in America on DED status. “I really hope President Obama continues to do the right thing and extend DED to prevent the breakup of thousands of Liberian-American families,” stated Reed.
Rhode Island has one of the largest populations of Liberians per capita, and Senator Reed has worked for years to allow this community to legally reside in the U.S. Over the years, Senator Reed worked with the White House, Homeland Security, and the State Department on behalf of the Liberian community to secure several DED and TPS extensions from the Obama and prior administrations. The last DED extension took effect on September 30, 2014 and is set to expire at the end of this month without action by the President.