Liberia suffered greatly in recent years, as the nation was torn apart by two long Civil Wars over the past two decades.

Though Liberia has made great strides in its recovery, President Bush’s recent visit to Liberia highlighted that Liberia still needs help. The nation faces high unemployment, a damaged infrastructure and serious threats from sickness and diseases.

My wife Sue and I have a unique personal story which led us to become involved in this issue. For almost a year, we had a Liberian refugee stay in our home. This gentleman came from dire circumstances in Liberia, as his wife was brutally assaulted and he was beaten and forced to leave his country. He still has scars from when he was beaten with the blunt end of a rifle.

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During the time our friend lived in our home, we developed an appreciation for his culture and were deeply moved by his commitment to his family and his homeland. He pursued higher education and worked several jobs so he could send financial assistance back to Liberia. Just as Sue and I found with our Liberian friend, America has a special relationship with Liberia. The country was founded as Africa’s first republic in 1821 by former American slaves, and Liberia’s capital city, Monrovia, is named after American President James Monroe.

The best way Congress can help Liberia is to allow law-abiding, hard-working Liberian refugees currently in America the chance to not only continue contributing to American society, but also to continue playing a pivotal role in furthering Liberia’s recovery from years of strife and turmoil.

A bi-partisan bill, H.R. 1941, introduced by Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-RI), Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) and myself, would allow Liberians in the United States on Temporary Protected Status the opportunity to apply for Permanent Residency Status.

Many of the Liberians in America on Temporary Protected Status have now resided in America legally for over seventeen years.

One of the unintended consequences of the Temporary Protected Status is it didn’t foresee that civil wars would continue in Liberia for several years, leaving refugees in America stuck in a state of flux.

These men and women could not return to their home countries because of the danger involved, but they also never had the opportunity to become American citizens.

It is time for Congress to end their political limbo and allow these hard-working, legal Liberian-Americans to continue in the communities where their children have grown up. By granting them Permanent Residency Status in the United States, America can say to Liberia we understand your situation, and we want to work with you to make things better.