Minnesota Representative Keith Ellison introduced the Liberian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act of 2011, H.R. 1293 in March, and Senator John Reed (RI) introduced the companion bill, S.656, in the Senate. The bills would allow Liberians to finally adjust their immigration status from temporary to permanent.
For years, immigration advocates have been making the case for permanent US residency for Liberians who are in the US on temporary immigration status. They argue that while Liberia is now post-civil war and on its way to recovery; it cannot handle a sudden influx of returnees. Additionally, they argue that Liberians have established new roots in their adopted homes including Minnesota which is home to over 30,000 Liberians.
For background see Obama offers immigration reprieve to Liberians on DED
“It’s welcoming news. It’s been a long time coming, we have been anticipating this kind of legislation for a very long time,” says Richard Sondah Olm, the chairman of the board of the Organization of Liberians in Minnesota (OLM).
In a statement supporting the bill, Ellison said, “Liberian-Americans enrich our communities in Minnesota and we owe it to them to finally resolve their immigration status.”
Senators Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken are among seven co-sponsors of the Senate bill.
The current temporary immigration status (Deferred Enforced Departure or DED) expires at the end of September. If these bills are not passed, President Obama could offer another extension or many Liberians would face deportation.