Reprieve for Liberian refugees

Mar 18, 2013

Rhode Island’s large Liberian community got some good news over the weekend. President Barack Obama announced that he is extending their stay an additional 18 months.  But Senator Jack Reed thinks they deserve better.

Rhode Island Senator Jack Reed
Credit courtesy of Jack Reed

Reed has introduced a bill that would put Liberian refugees on the path towards citizenship under whatever immigration bill emerges from Congress.  He says these refugees from a brutal civil war have earned the right to call themselves Americans. "I’ve been impressed with the fact that they’re very hard working. They’re diligent. They have a reputation in the state for sort of being very positive contributors to the community. This has been a long term and very close relationship and I’ve come to respect the community.'

Rhode Island has one of the nation’s largest concentrations of Liberians per capita. There are about nine thousand Liberians living in the Ocean State. They came here in the 1990’s to flee the civil war. Every year they face a deportation deadline.

Reed says he’d like to see the annual threat removed.  Reed has introduced legislation that would put Liberians on a path to citizenship. "They have formed these really strong ties to Rhode Island.  They have children who are citizens, educated in this country. They themselves have been working. So they should have the option, I think. If they choose to go back to their native land, fine. But after all these many many years in the United States many of them are committed to being Americans."

Reed says Liberians would be ahead of undocumented workers on the road to citizenship because they have been here legally as refugees all along.

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