ST PAUL, Minn. — As a Somali war refugee and an immigrant Rep. Ilhan Omar knows full well the anxiety and trauma of living in state of uncertainty. That's why she has wholeheartedly signed on to the Dream and Promise Act of 2019.
In a media conference call Wednesday with people who could benefit from the legislation, Rep. Omar said Minnesota's large Liberian population shouldn't have to worry about being deported after living in the US for decades.
"People such as Linda Clark, a Liberian Civil War refugee who has been here for 18 years, is exactly the type of American success story we should celebrate," Omar told reporters.
"She's someone who came to this country seeking a better life, and who’s done everything to build that life for herself."
Minnesota's Liberian population tops 30,000 and thousands face deportation beginning March 31 if the Trump Administration doesn't extend their deferred enforced departure status, known as DED.
The Dream and Promise Act, or H.R. 6, would put those Liberians on a path to permanent residency so their lives wouldn't be dependent on the political whims of the nation.
"This president has made targeting immigrants a priority of his administration," the Minnesota Democrat remarked.
"Over the past year the Trump administration has ended crucial protection for immigrants with temporary protected status, and last year he decided to terminate the deferred enforcement departure for Liberian Americans.
The bill would also create a path to citizenship for refugees who hold temporary protected status, or TPS.
It extends the same opportunities for the immigrant youth known as "dreamers" -- persons brought to this country by undocumented parents before 2007. There are thousands of youth in Minnesota who received temporary protection from deportation and work permits through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA in 2012.
President Trump has tried to end DACA as well, but thus far has been blocked by federal courts. At times, he has been willing to support DACA as part of an immigration reform package that includes a wall on the Mexican border.
Omar said it's not just a matter of uprooting Liberians and separating them from their American-born children. She points out many of them have established lives and careers in Minnesota, performing crucial roles in health care and other vital services.
"Some of them are teachers, bankers, doctors, nurses and caretakers. These are members of our community that we rely on," she explained.
On Thursday, Omar will tour a clinic staffed by Liberians and other immigrants.