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[Congressional Record: October 12, 2000 (Senate)]
[Page S10484-S10485]
From the Congressional Record Online via GPO Access []

                          LIBERIAN IMMIGRANTS

  Mr. REED. Mr. President, I want to take a moment to discuss the issue 
of Liberians in the United States who, up until a few days ago, faced 
an imminent threat of deportation. Today, through Executive action, 
that has been stayed at least for a year, but it is a community of 
people residing here who are literally living on the edge, not knowing 
if next year at this time they will, in fact, be deported back to 
Liberia, which is a country in great turmoil and crisis as we speak.
  For the last several years I have tried with diligence and 
determination to do justice for these people, to give them a chance to 
become permanent residents of this country and ultimately citizens of 
this country. In my determination and my dedication, I have objected to 
the consideration of other legislation regarding immigrant groups, not 
because this legislation lacked merit, but because, in my view, it was 
unfair not to consider in some way the plight of the Liberians who are 
in the United States today.
  I hope at this point, given assurances by the White House that this 
issue of justice for Liberians in the United States is a paramount 
issue for the President in the final days of this Congress in his 
negotiation with the congressional leadership, that the legislation I 
have objected to can and will move forward promptly.
  Let me try to explain briefly the status of Liberians in this 
  In 1989, Liberia, which historically is a country with close ties 
with Africa and the United States--it was founded by freed American 
slaves; its capital is Monrovia, named after our President James 
Monroe--this country in 1989 was engulfed in a brutal civil war. This 
civil war over the next 7 years would claim 150,000 lives; it would 
displace the population; it would destroy infrastructure. In 1991, 
realizing the gravity of this crisis, the Attorney General of the 
United States granted temporary protective status to approximately 
14,000 Liberians. They were allowed to remain in the United States. 
They could apply for work authorization, and they could work during 
this temporary protective status.

  This status was renewed annually because of the crisis in Liberia 
until 1999. In that year, it was determined that since there had been 
at least an election of democratic reform in Liberia, and since the 
situation of armed conflict had subsided, temporary protective status 
was no longer required. But rather than immediate deportation, the 
President decided to authorize something which is known as deferred 
enforced departure, or DED, essentially telling the Liberian community 
in the United States: You are subject to deportation today, but we are 
simply deferring that for at least a year.
  Just recently, again at the end of last month, we were able to get 
another Executive extension, but essentially what we are doing to these 
good people is putting their lives on hold one year at a time. They are 
unable to establish the same kind of permanency that we are seeking for 
other groups in this country.
  They are good and decent people who have worked hard. They are a 
vital part of our community, and in the intervening almost 10 years, 
they have established themselves; quite literally many of them have 
children born here who are American citizens.
  Yet each year we force these people to worry, to be concerned, to 
contemplate the very idea of leaving a home they have found and 
established here, taking with them children who know nothing of their 
native land, taking with them their skills which are not particularly 
useful, and going into a country that is violent.
  Yesterday, the President of the United States and our Department of 
State declared the President of Liberia, Charles Taylor, persona non 
grata in the United States. He cannot get a visa to come here because 
of his deportations within Liberia, because of his support of a 
campaign of terror in Sierra Leone. We have all been horrified by the 
pictures of mutilated children in Sierra Leone. This is all part of his 
involvement there--his trading guns for diamonds, his attempt to 
destabilize the country, and defy international law.
  That is the situation in Liberia, a situation, I might add, which we 
have also recognized is a threat to Americans. Our State Department is 
advising Americans they should not go to Liberia. We are withdrawing 
nonessential embassy personnel from Liberia. Yet we are unable to tell 
these Liberians in America: You can stay here and become permanent 
  In fact, we are saying: We are prepared to deport you at the end of 
next year because that is the message that DED gives. I think it is 
wrong. I think it is unjust.
  So I objected to certain measures. I think it is important to point 
out these measures.
  First, there was legislation, H.R. 4681, to provide an adjustment 
status for Syrian Jews. These individuals came to the United States in 
1992 through an arrangement between President Bush and President Assad 
of Syria. They were allowed to leave the country to seek refuge in the 
United States. But part of the negotiations, part of the fiction was 
that they would leave Syria on tourist visas. So they came to the 
United States. They did not come as refugees. They came as asylees. 
They sought asylum when they entered here.
  Under our immigration law, there is a limit on the number of asylees 
that can adjust to permanent status each year. But it is important to 
point out, these individuals, these very good decent people, these 
Syrian Jews, are not in danger of being deported back to Syria.
  Liberians are in grave danger of being deported back to Liberia. 
Essentially what this legislation would do--and I would support this 
legislation--is it would jump in ahead of other asylees who are waiting 
to fulfill the yearly quota of the number of asylees who can become 
permanent residents.
  So this is a situation of concern and importance, but not the level 
of criticality, I believe, with respect to the Liberian community. Yet 
this legislation has moved through this House promptly, is on the verge 
of passage, while still the Liberian legislation languishes. I do not 
think that is right. I do not think it is just. I don't care. I 
certainly am pleased literally within a few days these Syrian Jews will 
have a chance to adjust to permanent status. Again, what about the 
  There is another piece of legislation, the religious worker visa 
extension bill, which is also known as the Mother Teresa Religious 
Worker Act. This bill will allow the religious to come to the United 
States on a visa to do pastoral work.
  It has been in effect for several years. It is a good program. About 
2,500 workers come in a year. Very importantly, once these individuals 
are here, they can also adjust to permanent residency status, unlike 
the Liberians who now, under our DED, cannot do that. It is a worthy 
program, but it is a program, again, that I do not think has the same 
kind of compelling justice that the Liberians have in their case.

  We again applaud the fact that this piece of legislation is likely to 
become law. But what about the Liberians?
  There is also another piece of legislation that would grant immediate 
citizenship to children adopted internationally by the American public. 
Once again, these children are not in any danger of being returned to 
their homeland involuntarily. The Liberians are in such danger.
  Each time now that a child is adopted, they come in on a visa. The 
adoptive parents can fill out an application for citizenship on behalf 
of the child and pay a $2,500 fee. The application is then considered 
with all other applications for permanent residency. It takes a few 
years, but these children are virtually assured of becoming American 
  Let me try to suggest the incongruity of not dealing with the 
Liberian legislation in the same way we are dealing with this type of 
  If we do not, next September, grant DED, we could be in the awkward 
position of having legislation which would

[[Page S10485]]

allow an American couple to adopt a Liberian child and automatically 
make that child a citizen while at the same time we deport Liberian 
families in which the children are already American citizens having 
been born here. Again, not fair, not just. Even though this adoption 
bill is quite worthy--it will likely become law; I will support it--
what about the Liberians?
  So what we have seen is that legislation that has been introduced 
after legislation I introduced has already proceeded through the House 
and the Senate and will likely become law to the benefit of these good 
people, but what about the Liberians?
  I have tried all I can to get a fair hearing for the Liberians in 
this country. I hope, in the last few days, we will get that hearing, 
through the intervention of the White House and through the 
consideration of my colleagues.
  There are about 10,000 people here who have become important parts of 
our communities, who have sunk roots deep in our communities, many of 
whom have children who are Americans. It is not fair and it is not 
right that they are being ignored. I have tried to prevent at least 
that from happening, of them being completely ignored and being 
deported. They have suffered our indifference. I hope we can work this 
out in the next few days.
  I thank my colleagues for their indulgence.
  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Idaho.