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Phillips Urges Colleagues to Find Legislative Fix for DED in House Floor Speech

Phillips: “We can legislate a fix and it is time to act.”

This morning, Rep. Dean Phillips took to the House Floor to urge his colleagues to take legislative action to fix the Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) program for the Liberian community.

DED is set to expire on March 31st. Unless there is an extension or a legislative fix, the expiration will open the door for thousands of Liberians to be forced from their homes in America and sent back to Liberia after decades of legally working, raising families and paying taxes in the United States. DED does not provide a pathway to citizenship. The program has been extended by Republican and Democratic administrations every two years since 1991.

Below are Rep. Phillips’s remarks as prepared:

Madame Speaker, today I rise with great urgency to sound an alarm - because we have a community in peril. The Liberian community in Minnesota and around the nation is dealing with a crisis of our very own making. When the DED - Deferred Enforced Departure – program expires on March 31st, thousands of our Liberian friends and neighbors will be at the risk of losing their jobs and their homes and deported back to a nation they no longer know. Thousands of Liberians settled in the United States in the 1990s and early 2000s when their country was devastated by Civil Wars.

My friend Louise Stevens was one of them. She was a woman with a dream of a good life who worked hard to get an education and worked hard to get a good job. And because of a Civil War she had nothing to do with she had the courage and bravery to flee her home and start over in America. She slept on a mattress in a friend’s living room for over a year. She and her kids shared two rooms for another year.

Because President Clinton introduced the DED program in 1999, she was able to work without fear of being deported. She went to Boston Scientific and with her education and work ethic was able to get a good job and start a career that spanned 18 years. Now she is over 60 years old, and she could lose everything once again.

“The world took everything from me,” she told us. “Now I have a home, I have a job, I have a hospital to go to, I have friends and Minnesota is my home. America is my home. I can’t wrap my head around a piece of paper telling me that we don’t care, you can’t live here anymore.”

Another of my Liberian constituents, Michael, told us, “I am almost fifty. My friends in Liberia are either dead or living outside of the country. If I am sent back, I will have accomplished nothing. My whole life is here. This is my home.”

Another, Abdi Mohamed, who is afraid of losing his brother – “I cannot begin to imagine the nightmare this will create in my community. I am not ready to let my bond with my brother go. We love to go shopping at the Mall of America. Dave and Busters is so much fun together. I am not ready for this.”

Madame Speaker- We can do something about this. We can stop the nightmare from becoming a reality. We can legislate a fix and it is time to act. This is what we are here to do. To put people before politics and make a real difference in our communities.

Our Liberian neighbors are friends, they are workers, and they are taxpayers. They have played by the rules, they have worked exceptionally hard, they have thrived in good jobs. If we lose them, we will be losing our workforce. We will be losing our community. And we will be losing our family.

We have 18 days to act – 18 days to do something. To make sure that our Liberian community will never have to spend another sleepless night wondering if the world will take everything away from them once again.