U.S. President George Bush has granted an 18-month extension to thousands of Liberian who were facing deportation from the United States by October first. The extension affects about three thousand 600 Liberians and their families who have been living in the United States under the Temporary Protective Status or TPS.
In a memorandum to Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, President Bush cited “compelling foreign policy reasons” not to enforce the deportation. He said Liberia is struggling to implement reconstruction and economic stabilization programs after years of civil war.
Emmanuel Wettee is president of the Union of Liberian Associations in the Americas. He told VOA Liberians are elated by President Bush’s gesture.
“Our initial reaction is very good. We want say thanks to our partners, the Embassy of Liberia, the president of the Republic of Liberia, our chapters, and our friends that supported us in this process. We are very happy that this news came through,” he said.
Although the extension is for 18 months, Wettee said Liberians are hoping to get permanent resident status and eventually citizenship in the future.
“Our expectation is that one day we will get our green card (permanent resident status). We are hoping that in the process of the 18 months a comprehensive immigration bill will pass in the (US) Senate that would accommodate our needs,” he said.
Wettee credited Liberian President Ellen Johnson for prevailing upon President Bush and the U.S. Congress to make the extension possible.
“President and Madam Sirleaf had a tremendous and significant part to play. Her government made an appeal to the government of the United States. As a matter of fact, every visit that she made to the United States, she reminded the American government the need for us to have our green cards. She wrote a letter and she made calls,” Wettee said.
He said he understands that immigration in the United States is a hotly debated political issue. Still he said he is hopeful for Liberians.
“I do understand that the immigration issue in the United States is very political. Our hope is that with the grassroots partnership that we have, one of these days Liberians will get their green cards. All we need to do is to work together to make our case because as a matter of fact we are the longest serving on the DED (deferred enforced departure) and TPS. All others have either ended up getting the green card or been terminated,” he said.
Wettee said although Liberians were granted TPS because of the years of war, it is not fair to say that they should go home because the war is over.
“What they don’t understand is that these people we’re talking about are people with families. They have kids. Now you can’t just root them up while the kids are in school. Let us face the reality. I don’t think Liberia is in the position to take in 10,000 people from the states,” Wettee said.