Sharon Schmickle, Star Tribune (Minneapolis-St. Paul), April 24, 2007
More than 1,000 Liberian immigrants took their plea on tour around the Twin Cities Tuesday, petitioning congressional offices for a reversal of a government order to leave the country by Oct. 1.
Crisscrossing the metro area in school buses and cars, the Liberians made their case in placard, prayer and songending with a rousing rally at the State Capitol.
Kumba Karn, 39, of Brooklyn Park stressed Liberia’s unique ties with the United States: The republic was founded by American slaves sent back to Africa when they were freed.
Karn waved a placard that said “America, Do Not Forget Your Ally,” referring to Liberia’s decision to allow Allied forces to use its coast as a base for World War II operations.
Others made pleas based on America’s cherished family values.
Bills before Congress would allow Liberians who have been here temporarily to apply for permanent residency. Both of Minnesota’s senators support the bills, as do House Democrats Keith Ellison and Betty McCollum.
Since 1991, the Liberians have been allowed to live and work in the United States while their homeland was torn by brutal civil war. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced last fall that it was ending the permission, called Temporary Protected Status, effective this Oct. 1. It said Liberia is stabilizing now that U.N. troops are maintaining order there and a democratically elected government is beginning to rebuild.
Homeland Security hasn’t said how many Liberians have to leave. By most estimates, there are at least 1,000 in Minnesota on temporary status and nearly 4,000 nationwide. Officials in Minnesota say that as many as 5,000 in the state could be affected, counting spouses and children of those ordered to go.
Minnesota also is home to thousands of Liberians who have become U.S. citizens or won permanent residency and won’t be affected by the ruling. Many of those Liberians joined the demonstration Tuesday.