Three executives of the Union of Liberian Associations in the Americas (ULAA) are calling on the Legislature to repeal the Alien and Nationality Law, specifically Section 22, which speaks of the ‘Loss of Citizenship.’
According to Alfred Sieh, ULAA Board Chair, Frank Carter, National Executive Vice President, ULAA, and Conrade Nyenkan, Executive Board Member, ULAA, the present law on the book is against diaspora Liberians, who because of some circumstances beyond their controls, made them take up citizenships of other countries.
The Diaspora Liberians have been in long advocacy for dual citizenship. This dual citizenship advocacy was tested in the past National Referendum on December 8, 2020, but it did not succeed with other propositions.
The amended 1974 Alien and Nationality Law Section 22 speaks of ‘Loss of Citizenship,’ which ULAA thinks is a problem for them and needs repeal.
Section 22.1 states: “Acts causing loss of citizenship. From and after the effective date of this title, a person who is a citizen of Liberia, whether by birth or naturalization, shall lose his citizenship by (a) Obtaining naturalization in a foreign state upon his own application, upon the application of a duly authorized agent, or through the naturalization of a parent having legal custody of such person; provided that citizenship shall not be lost by any person under this section as the result of the naturalization of a parent or parents while such person under the age of 21 years, unless such person shall fail to enter Liberia to establish a permanent residence prior to his twenty-third birthday; (b) Taking an oath or making an affirmation or other formal declaration of allegiance to a foreign state or a political subdivision thereof; or (c) Exercising a free choice to enter or serve in the armed forces of a foreign state, unless, prior to such entry or service, such entry or service is specifically authorized by the President; (d) Voting in a political election in a foreign state or voting in an election or plebiscite to determine the sovereignty of a foreign state over foreign territory; or (e) Making a formal renunciation of Liberian nationality before a diplomatic or consular officer of Liberia in a foreign state in such form may be prescribed by the Secretary of State.”
Carter disclosed that unfortunately, some Liberians back home are fearful that their brothers and sisters, who reside in the diaspora, are going to come back some days to take all their “jobs” away and therefore are discriminating against them that they are not “Liberians” but foreigners.
He historicized that this thought of Liberians at home started in the 1950s when foreigners were coming to Liberia and getting lucrative public jobs. The fear drove away in 1974 when the law came into force.
Carter added, “What happened at that time was, they wanted to make sure that foreigners do not come here to take jobs. Unfortunately, at this point, it is Liberians doing it to Liberians. Liberians who are opportune to be here are now saying that since that law was passed, we can start to work with it because we still have fears that our jobs would be taken away.”
Liberians at home have over time been in disenchantment over dual citizenship for fear that when given, wealthy Lebanese and other foreign nationals will use their money to purchase all the land of the country. They also fear that granting dual citizenship to Liberians would encourage capital flight so that money will leave Liberia to support families of top government officials in the United States and other parts of the world.
According to him, only very few Liberians abroad might be thinking about getting a public sector job back home, and that most of them have establishments including companies that are directly impacting the lives of their fellow Liberians back home.
ULAA Board Chairman, Alfred Sieh, says he was born in Firestone under the rubber trees and was fortunate to leave the country during the war to go in exile.
He says despite taking citizenship of his host country, his parents still know him to be their son, but now the law is against him that he is no longer a citizen of the country where he was born and brought up.
Sieh mentioned that Ghanaians, Nigerians or Sierra Leoneans come to Liberia and take up citizenship, but their countries of birth still guarantee them “perpetual citizenship,” unlike Liberia.
He and his colleague, Carter, said they have met with some lawmakers concerning repealing the Alien and Nationality Law that will accommodate diaspora Liberians, who have taken up the citizenships of other nations.
“Now, when you look at the naturalization certificate of any Liberian, it carries his place of birth. We accept Liberians home as criminals but we don’t want to accept Liberians back home as professionals,” added Conrade Nyekan, another member of ULAA.
The ULAA group recalled that a few years ago Liberians used the Naturalization Law to get out Elizabeth Russell, former President of the Tubman University in Maryland County, which according to them signaled a future action that will be bad for Liberians living in the diaspora.