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Clinton May Extend Liberians’ Stay

September 26, 2000

WASHINGTON (AP) _ A Clinton administration official said Tuesday the president likely will intervene and allow up to 15,000 Liberians to remain in the country once the deadline for them to leave expires Thursday.

The Liberians fled the civil war in their country for America in 1991 and were granted temporary protection status that allowed them to stay for a year. They received extensions as the fighting continued.

The war officially ended in 1997 and Attorney General Janet Reno set a deadline of Sept. 28, 1999, for them to leave. The day before the deadline, Clinton intervened and allowed them to stay another year under ``deferred enforced departure″ status.

Clinton said he was worried that deportations could spur countries in West Africa to also expel the thousands of Liberians who fled there because of civil war.

Now, with the latest deadline approaching, a White House official said the president again is prepared to act.

``The president is expected to approve another extension but has not yet made that decision,″ said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. ``All signs point in that direction.″

Eyleen Schmidt, a spokeswoman for the Immigration and Naturalization Service, said the agency has not been told whether Clinton will grant another extension. Even without such a move, she said deportation would not be immediate.

``There’s no plan to go out at midnight and do a mass deportation,″ Schmidt said.

Meanwhile, Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., said he’ll keep pushing his bill that would grant the Liberians permanent residency status. The bill is stalled in Congress as lawmakers wait to see whether Clinton intervenes.

About 4,000 Liberians live in Rhode Island. Other large groups settled in Massachusetts and Illinois.

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