Liberians in Minnesota say they're pleased after President Obama signed an order Tuesday allowing them to live in the U.S. for an additional 18 months.
Many of the African refugees are staying in the U.S. on temporary legal status after fleeing civil war in their homeland. Liberian-born Wynfred Russell of Brooklyn Park said community members are under constant worry that their immigration status, known as Deferred Enforced Departure, will expire.
"If you can imagine just sitting around, waiting every year, after six months maybe, people start wondering, 'Is DED going to be renewed? Is it going to be approved? Is it going to be rescinded?' " Russell said. "People cannot live their life that way in this holding pattern."
Russell said he and other Liberians have started families and planted roots in Minnesota, home to one of the largest Liberian communities in the nation. Each year, about a thousand Liberians in Minnesota wait to find out if their legal status will be renewed.
A better solution would be to allow the Liberians to apply for permanent residency, Russell said.
A bill introduced by Congressman Keith Ellison this year would let Liberian nationals to apply for permanent residency, but it has not gained traction.
"These people now have families here. They've planted substantial roots here in Minnesota," Russell said. "If we were to uproot them and send them back to Liberia, that would cause a lot of problems."
Russell says deportation would separate Liberian refugees from their American-born children. But he says Washington politics appear to be blocking efforts to grant the Liberian group permanent residency.