U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar and immigration advocates on Wednesday called for the passage of a measure that would offer legal protections to millions of longtime immigrants who currently lack a pathway to citizenship.

The legislation, called the Dream and Promise Act, would allow immigrants who came to the U.S. illegally as children to apply for permanent legal status, along with immigrants from Central America and the Caribbean who reside here under Temporary Protected Status as well as Liberians in the Deferred Enforced Departure program. House Democrats introduced the bill this month as President Donald Trump's efforts to end those protections have prompted court challenges.

Minnesota's sizable Liberian population is anxiously awaiting a reprieve after Trump decided last year that those in the deferred departure program had until March 31, 2019, to return to their West African nation, noting that conditions had improved following the civil war. Many have lived and worked in the Twin Cities legally for decades as administrations of both parties extended temporary protections.

"We are 11 days away from a decision that will rip families apart," said Alfreda Daniels, a community organizer for the Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation, during a conference call with reporters. "However, we will continue to fight."

This bill, she added, "has to pass." Daniels said that they could not get anyone affected by the loss of the deferred departure program on the phone because many are scared.

The legislation has 214 cosponsors, all Democrats.

"The uncertainty that we feel now is a very unpleasant feeling, not knowing what is going to happen," said Walter Ayala, who came to America from El Salvador as a teenager and resides here under Temporary Protected Status.

Omar said it is important for the administration to hear these stories "to understand the lives that will be disturbed and the kind of devastating impact it will have … here in Minnesota."

Maya Rao • 612-673-4210