Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/washington/news.aspx?id=131135
Story Retrieval Date: 5/19/2013 9:35:49 AM CST
WASHINGTON- Eliane Dunn dreads the day she is forced to return to Liberia, her home country. As the primary breadwinner, this Gaithersburg, Maryland mother of three says her family would be financially crippled. The recent economy has contributed to her discomfort.
"If I have to leave we go from a double income family to a single income family," Dunn said. On top of that, "my husband's been furloughed."
Dunn fears her family would face a litany of hardships. With three children and a husband whose work hours have been cut in this economy, Dunn says her mortgage would be in jeopardy.
As if that is not enough, who would look after her children? Barring a reprieve, Dunn will be required to return to Liberia next year when her immigration status runs out. That prospect instantly brings Elise into focus.
Elise, her oldest child, is nine years old and has autism. The Blue Cross Blue Shield health insurance that helps pay for Elise's care would be in jeopardy.
Liberia may be on the road to recovery after almost two decades of strife but its progress is slow.
"The unemployment rate in Liberia is about 80 percent," said Edwin Sele, Liberia's deputy chief of mission in Washington.
Simply put, the situation in Liberia means that moving her family there in the event she leaves is untenable. Dunn says the care Elise gets in the U.S. would be non-existent. And she says the emotional impact of a separation from her children would be unbearable.
For now, she remains here thanks to extensions of presidential decrees, ordered first under President Bush in 2007 and subsequently President Obama this year. The deferred enforced departure (DED) allows about 3,600 Liberians who reside here to stay until March 31, 2010. After that, who knows?
This uncertainty compels Dunn to act. She has rallied with a coalition of Liberians pushing for Congress to pass two bills in the house and the senate. The newly-formed Committee of Liberians on DED is pressing lawmakers to pass the Liberian Refugee Immigration bill in the Senate that would allow them to apply for permanent residency. The group will gather for its first national conference here in Washington next week where it will present a petition to some lawmakers.
Dunn has been in the U.S. more than a decade and other Liberians have been here longer. Dunn says that for them, there is nothing temporary about the 18 years many of them have spent in the U.S.