By: Lauren Victoria Burke
Freshman New Jersey Rep. Donald Payne, Jr. hosted a conference focusing on the concerns of Liberian immigrants last Friday. The conference took place in conjunction with the Liberian Pastors Association. It was held to focus on the need to for an immediate extension for Liberian immigrants called a Deferred Enforced Departure or "DED".
In a surprise that was greeted by cheers and applause, Obama Administration Homeland Security official Denise Vanison announced that the President would grant the extension for 18 months. The announcement was a surprise Vanison said before being interrupted by the cheering of conference participants.
"I was thrilled that Obama Administration official, Denise Vanison, announced the Administration's decision to extend DED status at the conference," said Rep. Payne in a statement. "This is a joyous day and a great step forward for Liberian immigrants. Nevertheless, our conference drew attention to the fact that DED remains a flawed policy as Liberian immigrants wait in limbo every 18 months wondering whether they will be deported," Payne cautiously added.
Vanison was mobbed by attendees who gave her thanks and asked to be photographed with her.
Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA), Chair of Subcommittee on Africa, Committee on Foreign Affairs said, "Today's discussion is important to elevating the status of Africa in Congress. I commend Congressman Payne for spearheading this dialogue and offer my support for the Obama Administration's decision to extend Deferred Enforced Departure for Liberians for 18 months."
Payne introduced Vanison saying he had asked the President for assistance on the issue the day before as Obama visited the Capitol to speak to Senate Republicans and House Democrats. Payne said he was unsure someone would appear but not only did Vanison attend -- she brought news that many in the room wanted to hear.
The extension provides an additional 18 months of temporary legal status for the thousands of Liberian refugees living in the United States.
Approximately 3,600 eligible Liberians living in the United States were effected by a surprise announcement by Obama Administration official Denise Vanison of the Department of Homeland Security. Vanison told the group of immigrants and advocates that President Obama would grant an immediate extension of Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) to the sound of cheers at the conference.
"Liberia is a small America. We are proud to live that way. Liberia is not prepared for the deportation of thousands of Liberian-American immigrants. We don't have the resources, the infrastructure, or the capability. I commend Representative Donald Payne, Jr. for hosting the conference and adding your voice to the many voices speaking out for Liberian immigrants," Liberian Ambassador Jeremiah Sulunteh said.