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Phillips Applauds New Permanent Resident Status for Liberian Minnesotans

President Trump signs defense bill which includes a provision to provide pathway to citizenship for Liberians on DED

Today, Rep. Dean Phillips (MN-03) is celebrating with the members of the Liberian community in Minnesota after President Trump signed the National Defense Department Authorization (NDAA). The defense agreement provides Liberians on Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) with a pathway to citizenship for the first time - the culmination of a year-long effort by Phillips and a core group other lawmakers. Phillips has been working with the Liberian community, his colleagues in Congress and President Trump to first delay the expiration of DED in March and has advocated for a bipartisan permanent fix for the last year. 

The yearly defense bill contained the final provision, which was based on legislative efforts led by Phillips, Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, and Rep. David Cicilline, Rhode Island Sen. Jack Reed and Minnesota Sen. Tina Smith.

“Our nation is the land of promise and opportunity,” said Phillips. “If you are here legally, play by the rules, and contribute to your community, you should have nothing to fear - and our Liberian neighbors, coworkers, friends, and family are finally breathing a sigh of relief. Over many months, I have worked together with Minnesota’s extraordinary Liberian community to elevate their stories and legislate a permanent fix for DED. I’m overjoyed and celebrating alongside them today and am thankful to my colleagues Rep. David Cicilline, Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, Sen. Tina Smith, and Sen. Jack Reed for finding a way to get this done.”

Minnesota is home to one of the largest Liberian immigrant populations in the United States, many of whom call Brooklyn Park home. For decades, Liberians on DED have worked legally, owned homes, and paid taxes in Minnesota with no pathway to citizenship. The community is also the hardworking bedrock of the northwest metro’s health and senior care industry.

The West African nation of Liberia was founded in 1822 by freed American slaves, and the two countries have since shared a special relationship. When a series of brutal civil wars broke out in 1989, many Liberians fled to the United States and President George H.W. Bush extended Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to Liberians as part of the U.S. humanitarian response. Then, in 1999, President Bill Clinton introduced DED as a temporary immigration status for Liberian refugees. DED has been routinely renewed by every subsequent Administration and Liberians have continued to seek refuge in the United States from ongoing violence and the Ebola crisis. In March 2019, after stating he would not act, President Donald Trump issued a one-year extension of protections for Liberians for the second time. He expressed a desire to give Congress time to consider legislation that would make repeatedly granting one-year extensions unnecessary. 

Phillips voted in favor of the annual defense spending bill, which passed the House last Wednesday.