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Big relief for Minnesota’s Liberian community: White House extends temporary residency status

REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
On Wednesday, two days before the deadline, President Barack Obama announced that Liberian immigrants can live and work in the U.S. for another year and a half.

Thousands of Liberian immigrants uncertain of their fate in the United States beyond September got some good news on Wednesday: They won’t face deportation come the end of the month. 

The decision was detailed in a presidential memorandum from the White House announcing an 18-month extension for Liberian immigrants with temporary residency status. The announcement affects thousands of immigrants in Minnesota, which is home to the largest concentration of Liberians in the country, many of whom live in the Minneapolis suburbs of Brooklyn Park and Brooklyn Center.

Since 1991, the U.S. government has allowed Liberians escaping brutal civil wars in their homeland to come to the United States under what’s called Temporary Protective Status, or TPS.

In 2003, when the conflict in Liberia ended, the U.S. government decided that the special residency status would end in 2007, during President George W. Bush’s administration. But for those already in America, Bush granted an additional 18-month stay in the United States under the Deferred Enforcement Departure (DED). 

Later, when President Obama came into office, he extended that grant to Sept. 30, 2016. 

On Wednesday, two days before the deadline, the president announced that Liberian immigrants can live and work in the U.S. for another year and a half. “I have determined that there are compelling foreign policy reasons to again extend DED to those Liberians presently residing in the United States under the existing grant of DED,” he states in the memo to the secretary of homeland security. 

He added: “Pursuant to my constitutional authority to conduct the foreign relations of the United States, I have determined that it is in the foreign policy interest of the United States to defer for 18 months the removal of any Liberian national, or person without nationality who last habitually resided in Liberia, who is present in the United States and who is under a grant of DED as of September 30, 2011.”

The West African nation is among dozens of countries to which the U.S. government provides TPS because of ongoing conflicts and environmental disasters. Though the special status protects immigrants from deportation and allows them to obtain employment authorization, it doesn’t put them on a path to citizenship.

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