By Esme Murphy

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — United States Senator Tina Smith tells WCCO there has been a major breakthrough that will provide permanent status to thousands of Liberians in Minnesota and across the United States.

The Defense Authorization Act — which would keep those Liberians here — passed Thursday in the U.S. House. The U.S. Senate is expected to do the same on Monday, and President Donald Trump is expected to sign it.

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Last March, just days before a deportation deadline for Liberians with deferred enforcement departure status, or DED, they were given a one-year extension that allowed them to stay in the country. That deadline is set to expire in early 2020.

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Smith says the bill provides a path to citizenship in five years.

“This is really good news,” Smith said. ‘We have been working really hard to get to this point.”

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Many Liberian Minnesotans were granted DED status in 1999 in response to the Liberian Civil War.

Esme Murphy