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[Congressional Record: December 15, 2000 (Senate)]
[Page S11902]
From the Congressional Record Online via GPO Access []

[[Page S11902]]

  Mr. REED. Mr. President, I rise tonight to express my deep 
disappointment that this final package does not include a provision 
that allows Liberian nationals living in this country to adjust to 
permanent residency.
  As I have told this body many times, approximately 10,000 Liberians 
fled to the United States beginning in 1989 when their country became 
engulfed in a civil war. In 1991, Attorney General Barr granted 
Liberians Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and renewed it in 1992. 
Under the Clinton administration, Attorney General Reno continued to 
renew TPS for Liberians on an annual basis until last year when she 
granted Deferred Enforced Departure. DED was renewed again this year.
  While Liberians can now legally live in the United States for another 
year, it does not change the fact that they have lived in limbo for 
almost a decade. The Liberians have lived in a ``protected status'' 
longer than any other group in the history of this country. These 
individuals have played by the rules. From the beginning, they have 
always lived in this country legally. They have established careers, 
opened businesses, bought homes, had American-born children, and 
contributed to our communities. Yet, they are unable to enjoy the basic 
rights and privileges of U.S. citizenship. These people deserve better.
  For several years I have been working to see that the Liberians 
receive the justice they deserve. In March 1999, I introduced S. 656, 
the Liberian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act which would allow 
Liberian nationals who had received TPS to adjust to permanent 
residency. For almost two years I have been unable to convince my 
colleagues to hold a hearing, debate this issue on the floor, or pass 
the bill. I did everything I believed was necessary to garner support 
for this legislation. I spoke on the floor, I wrote ``Dear 
Colleagues'', I gathered cosponsors on both sides of the aisle, I spoke 
personally with the leadership of both parties and the White House. 
Despite these efforts, the plight of the Liberians has not been 
recognized and their status has not been resolved.
  The situation facing the Liberians is not a novel issue for Congress. 
In the time that the Liberians have lived in this country, several 
other immigrant groups, including 52,000 Chinese, 4,996 Poles, 200,000 
El Salvadorans, 50,000 Guatemalans and 150,000 Nicaraguans, who lived 
in the U.S. under temporary protective status for far less time have 
been allowed to adjust to permanent status. Just last month we passed a 
bill adjusting the status of 4,000 Syrian Jews. There are those who 
have argued that it is time to stop passing ``nation specific'' 
immigration fixes and to implement a system that is comprehensive and 
fair. I fully agree. But until we reach that point and are ready to 
pass such legislation, I do not believe that we can, in good conscious, 
arbitrarily deny certain groups a remedy for the unintended and unjust 
consequences of our immigration law.
  I would also like to state that I believe that we have a special 
obligation to the Liberians because of the special ties the U.S. has 
with that country. Congress should honor the special relationship that 
has always existed between the United States and Liberia. In 1822, 
groups of freed slaves from the U.S. began to settle on the coast of 
Western Africa with the assistance of private American philanthropic 
organizations at the behest of the U.S. government. In 1847, these 
settlers established the republic of Liberia, the first independent 
country in Africa. Liberians modeled their constitution after the U.S. 
and named their capital Monrovia after President James Monroe. Mr. 
President, many of the Liberian nationals in this country can trace 
their ancestry to American slaves. We owe them more than we are giving 
them tonight.
  When Liberians arrived in this country, they expected to stay only a 
short time and to return home once it was safe. But one year turned 
into many and they moved on with their lives. They are now part of our 
community. They deserve the same benefits that we have given so many 
others--the rights of citizenship. It is my hope that we can address 
this grievous situation early in the 107th Congress. We need to right a