About 10 thousand Liberians living in
the United States under a special immigration status are calling on President
Obama’s administration and the U.S. Congress to grant them permanent resident
status. These Liberians who fled their
country’s civil war since 1992 have been living in the United States under
Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and the Deferred Enforced Departure (DED).
Each year they rely on the President of the United States to grant them
temporary reprieve by extending their stay. In September 2007 President George
Bush extended the DED for 18 months which expires in March this year.
Kesselly, national president of the Union of Liberian Associations in the
Americas (ULAA) told VOA Liberians want a permanent
solution to their immigration problem.
what Liberians want is a permanent resolution of the problem which basically is
giving them permanent residency status. That’s why we have been pursuing
legislation in both houses of Congress for a more permanent solution. We want
to take care of the problem once and for all,” he said.
said Liberians are tired of yearly renewals of their immigration status.
will know that extension is a temporary measure, and you know that if you are
in temporary status it can come with some uncertainties. We want a final
resolution. If we are permanent residents we can continue to invest here, we
can settle down with our children who are American citizens. But if you are
in a state of not knowing whether you’re going to be put in a deportation
criteria or whether you’re going to stay, it comes with its own repercussions,”
U.S. anti-immigration groups have argued that the Liberians under TPS should go
home since their country was no longer in a war situation.
Kesselly said those groups should know that the United States cannot be an
isolationist country. Besides, he said Liberia is still an unstable country in
Liberia is on its course to recovery, but yet you know the dislocation in that
country, you know the extent to which people were uprooted, and you know how
fragile the situation is right now. The country is being held together security
wise by United Nations troops. You know there is no employment; you know people
here work and remit money back home to sustain people. Can you imagine sending
an influx of people here into that economy? It’s going to introduce a lot of
things that would boomerang. It would back fire again and send people running,”
said while Liberians living in the United States would like to go home to contribute
to the development of their country, Liberia’s current economic situation makes
it almost impossible for them to be absorbed into the economy.
brushed aside criticism that Liberia, which has had an elected government for
more than three years should still be considered unstable.
only wish the only problem in Liberia was the question of elections, but
elections don’t automatically bring employment; elections don’t repair all the
housings that people lost; election does not bring back family members on whom
people used to depend who were killed by the war. Yes, election is one step
forward, but it doesn’t create the condition that can absorbed all of these
people in this unplanned manner,” Kesselly said.
15 members of the U.S. Congress, including Senator Jack Reed and Representative
Patrick Kennedy both of the state of Rhode Island and Congressman Keith Ellison
of Minnesota have spearheaded the effort to renew past TPS.
said he will lead a delegation
early March to meet with
Senator Jack Reed and ask him to re-introduce his legislation from last year
seeking to grant Liberians under the TPS permanent residency.
agreed that infighting within ULAA, the umbrella organization of Liberians in
the United States could make lobbying for renewal of TPS a tough thing. But he
said all Liberians irrespective of their differences are united in their effort
to get permanent residency for Liberians on TPS.