The Department of Homeland Security announced an 18-month extension Monday for Somalis living in the United States under temporary protected status.

The extension, until Sept. 17, 2009, was requested by Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn.

Minnesota is home to about 70,000 Somali residents, the largest Somali community in the country, Coleman's office said.

Those currently enrolled in the temporary protected status program must reregister with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and can do so during a 60-day period starting Wednesday.

The Department of Homeland Security said about 300 Somalis are eligible for reregistration. The department also announced a six-month extension of employment authorization documents for eligible Somalis, which it said would allow enough time for individuals to get new documents without a lapse in employment.

"For years, violence and humanitarian crises have plagued the people of Somalia, causing many to take refuge in the United States, particularly in Minnesota," said Coleman, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

"This extension was absolutely necessary, since political unrest has caused Somalia to become even more dangerous since last year's extension. Sending them home would only add to the instability in Somalia and put these individuals at risk."

Temporary protected status allows people from selected countries to legally work and live in the United States, although it is not a path to citizenship. Other countries with TPS status include Burundi, Sudan, El Salvador, Liberia, Honduras and Nicaragua.