U.S. Senate Approves Defense Bill, Liberians Call It “Early Christmas Present”
The U.S. Senate Tuesday approved the National Defense Authorization Act that includes a pathway to citizenship for local Liberian refugees who have been living in this country for nearly 30 years. Local Liberian leaders call it “an early Christmas gift.”
Some Liberians have living in limbo under the immigration status known as Deferred Enforced Departure (DED). But the U.S. Senate action will change that. The vote was 86-6, with the legislation headed to the president’s desk. The U.S. House approved the bill last week.
Minnesota is home to one of the largest Liberian populations in the country, with an estimated 30,000 people. Many of them live in Brooklyn Park and Brooklyn Center.
DED protected Liberian refugees who fled civil war back in the 1990s. Different White House administrations kept renewing the program without a permanent solution. The program was set to expire in March 2020, potentially breaking up families and sending Liberians on DED back to the West African country.
Local Liberian leaders call it a significant victory that a permanent solution is finally happening.
“We all are excited. I mean, the community is for sure very excited about this,” said Brooklyn Park Council Member Wynfred Russell on Monday.