The U.S. House of Representatives has approved a resolution extending the Temporary Protective Status (TPS) which has since the early 1990’s allowed thousands of Liberians to live and work in the United States. The measure must be approved by the Senate before becoming a law. Liberians on the TPS face deportation from the United States comes October first, when TPS is scheduled to expire.
Congressman Donald Payne is chairman of the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa and one of the supporters of the bill. He told VOA that passing the TPS bill gives Liberians a reprieve from deportation.
“That means that the Liberians who came here and are under that category, and that temporary status is in the process of expiring, that passing this bill today would extend the period so that it would continue, and they would not be subjected to deportation,” he said.
Congressman Payne says the extension does not mean that Liberians on the TPS would be granted permanent residency or green cards in the United States
“No! This currently just gives them protective status, and I think that once can extend the status then we ought to take look at what can be done because, as you mentioned, most of the Liberians came over as early as 1991 and back in March 1991 the protection began. In 1999, approximately 10,000 Liberians in the United States were given another status after TPS expired…right now if we can keep them in status, then we could start working on other legislation that could give them special status,” Payne said.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security ruled last year not to extend TPS after October 1 this year. Some in the U.S. government have argued that Liberia is now a stabled country following the 2005 historic elections of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
But Congressman Payne said there is more to giving immigrants a protective status than the fact that they may be from a war country.
“The protective status is for things in addition to war. One, is the current conditions that people would have to move back into the country and whether the country has the ability to absorb large numbers of people who would be sent back to the country. So it goes beyond escaping for political reasons when you talk about forcing people to go back. So that’s why we feel that they should be under this status,” Payne said.
Some of the Liberians under the TPS status have used Liberia’s long-standing historic relationship with the United States to argue that they should not be deported. Congressman Payne agreed.
“There’s no question about it as we know the history of Liberia. We know that it became a place where, even after Congress made money available in 1822 to begin the return of free men back to Liberia, and it becoming an independent state in 1847, being the longest democracy in Africa. And just the long time support Liberia gave the United States during the world wars and after the Cold War, Voice of America and all kinds of programs fighting against communism, all emanated out of Liberia. And so Liberia has been a very strong ally to the United States, and so I think that we owe them a special gratitude,” Payne said.