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Statements on Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutions - Liberian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act

Floor Speech

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Mr. REED. Mr. President, today I introduce the Liberian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act along with Senators Whitehouse, Cardin, Klobuchar, Franken, Warren, and Cowan.

In December 1989, Liberia became engulfed in a devastating 7-year civil war, which killed over 150,000 people, displaced more than half the population, and destroyed the country's infrastructure. Thousands of Liberians who were forced from their homes sought refuge in the United States and in 1991, were granted Temporary Protected Status, TPS. Since that time, the status of many of these refugees, as well as many of those who fled to the United States during Liberia's second civil war, 1999-2003, has been extended through renewals of both TPS and Deferred Enforced Departure, DED.

America is now home to these law-abiding and tax-paying Liberians. They came here to escape violence and are strengthening our communities. Many now have children of their own who are U.S. citizens, some of whom serve in the U.S. military. They are here legally, and they continue to work hard and play by the rules.

We are currently less than 20 days away from the expiration of DED on March 31, 2013. In the short term, I have been joined by several colleagues in urging the Administration to extend DED so Liberians who have lived here legally do not face deportation.

The Liberian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act, which I have introduced every Congress since 1999, offers a more long-term solution. It seeks to provide a path to citizenship for qualifying Liberian refugees. After decades of perennial uncertainty about whether they will be able to stay in their communities or whether their families will be split up, this bill would give eligible Liberians the opportunity to apply for legal permanent residency, and begin the process of finally becoming citizens.

Currently, a bipartisan group of my Senate colleagues is working towards a comprehensive immigration reform bill. I look forward to working with them and others to include the Liberian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act in immigration reform. I thank Senators Whitehouse, Cardin, Klobuchar, Franken, Warren, and Cowan for cosponsoring this bill and urge our colleagues to join us in taking the next steps to finally provide a path to citizenship for qualifying Liberians.

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