Mum's the word

Aug 16, 2000 at 12:00 am
Dear U.S. Sen. Spencer Abraham,

News Hits has been talking to Metro Times reporter Ann Mullen (we’re real tight with her — sometimes it’s as if we’re one and the same) and she says that she’s frustrated. Can you guess why? If not, ask your communication’s director Margaret Murphy.

Murphy should tell you that for nearly two months Mullen has been asking her whether the senator — that means you — has decided to support Senate Bill 656, which would grant permanent residency to the 10,000-15,000 Liberians living in the United States. Mullen says that she spoke to Murphy six times since June and each time was told that you still have not decided where you stand.

For those who may not know about this proposed law and why it’s crucial that Abraham support it, here’s the deal: In 1989, a seven-year civil war erupted in Liberia. Under the leadership of Charles Taylor, according to numerous reports, thousands of rebels committed some truly heinous crimes against the Liberian people: rape, torture, murder, etc. And who do you suppose is now the president of Liberia? You guessed it, Taylor himself.

Needless to say, thousands Liberians fled their homeland — as many as 15,000 headed for the America, where they were given “temporary protected status” by the INS. The Clinton administration allowed that status to expire a year ago. Unless Michigan’s junior senator (that would be you, Spence) lends a hand, they may be forced to return home Sept. 28 — a scary prospect indeed.

As chair of the Senate Subcommittee on Immigration, Abraham could determine if the bill moves.

“This guy holds the key to heaven, and if we don’t get his blessing we will not see what heaven looks like,” said Saa M’Tow, a member of the National Liberian Working Group, which is trying to get the bill passed. M’Tow spoke to Mullen last June when she wrote an article about the issue (“War Torn” MT, June 21-27). M’Tow’s group is asking all Liberians and their supporters to gather in D.C. on Sept. 14 to let Congress know where they stand.

Thanks to U.S. Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., the Liberians have a shot at staying. Reed wrote the legislation, which was introduced to the Senate last year. According to Reed’s press secretary, Greg McCarthy, the senator has been asking Abraham to support the bill for months, but has gotten nowhere.

Ironically, Reed hopes to attach his bill to another immigration bill that Abraham supports, says McCarthy — and both bills are expected to go before the full Senate in early September and have a good chance of passing.

Well, Mr. Abraham, it looks like you may be supporting the Liberians’ cause after all. But if you are the compassionate conservative you and your Republican cohorts pretend to be, try to ensure the bill is passed. Thousands of lives will be affected.

Ann Mullen contributed to News Hits, which is edited by Curt Guyette. He can be reached at 313-202-8004 or [email protected]