(AP) - President Barack Obama has signed an executive order allowing roughly 3,600 Liberians living in the United States under temporary protected status to stay in the country for an additional 12 months.
The White House told members of Congress of the decision on Friday.
An 18-month extension issued by President George W. Bush was set to expire March 31.
Advocates for the Liberians are hopeful that a solution can be reached with Congress to allow the Liberians to stay permanently.
More than 250,000 Liberians live in the United States, with large concentrations in the Carolinas, Georgia, Minnesota, New York, New Jersey and Rhode Island.
Kerper Dwanyen, the president of the Organization of Liberians in Minnesota, said the 3,600 who have temporary protected status might seem small, but it represents a disproportionate number of people who are primary providers for their families in both countries. Many have been in the United States as long as 15 years, he said.
People under this designation have the same avenues to citizenship as other immigrants. But if the status ends before the immigration process is complete, returning to their home country is usually the only legal option.
There are currently six countries with Temporary Protected Status: Burundi, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Somalia and Sudan. Burundi's designation is set to expire May 2; about 300 Somalis could be forced to leave in September, when their designation ends.
Though there are tens of thousands of Somalis living the United States, most entered under a designation other than Temporary Protected Status.
The fragility in Somalia contrasts with Liberia, where there have been more concrete signs of progress and stability.
After a series of coups and consistent violence beginning in 1980, an August 2003 peace accord led to two years of rule by a transitional government and a democratic election in late 2005 that brought President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to power.
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