Liberian Lobby Intensifies in the Wake of DED Termination

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Liberian Lobbyists Tanya Greaves Young (L), and Caroline Grimes (R) With Liberian Ambassador Lois Brutus

-Trump yet to decide

By John F. Lloyd

The immigration status of thousands of Liberians in the United States will go in jeopardy at midnight on March 31, 2018, unless action is taken by President Donald Trump to issue the Executive Order of Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) to extend their legal stay in the U.S.

Every U.S. President since the outbreak of the Liberian civil war have taken similar action to grant immigration protection to Liberian immigrants in the wake of the long period of intermittent civil and political crisis in Liberia.

The uncertainty brought by this looming crisis has engendered fear in many quarters at home and abroad triggering a massive lobbying effort by Liberian Diaspora leaders in the U.S with the help of friendly organizations.

Upon the expiration of the current DED designation on March 31st, thousands of Liberians would lose their work authorization and become vulnerable to deportation the following day.

The repercussions of such a massive action would evoke another crisis of untold proportions even as the Liberian nation struggles to regain its footing from years of political unrest and severe economic hardship.

Fourteen (14) years since the cessation of hostilities in Liberia, the nation is yet to recover from severe economic challenges including massive unemployment, lack of basic housing, food insecurity, and insufficient access to public health highlighted by the 2014 Ebola pandemic. .

Liberian Lobby

The current campaign for reprieve which reached a fever pitch this March is an effort to grant yet another lifeline in a long saga of 12 to 18 month long extensions of temporary status occurring repeatedly since 1991.

The March campaign is part a two-step strategic effort led by various Liberian diaspora groups. It began with a three day campaign on March 12-15 in Washington DC led by a consolidated delegation of Liberians from Minnesota, along with the Liberian Community in Washington in concert with the Union of Liberian Associations in the Americas (ULAA) and the Coalition of Concerned Liberians (CCL).

They were joined by a network of immigrant groups in Washington under the aegis of African Communities Together (ACT) in a bid to lobby members of the U.S. Congress to add their voices to the cause of Liberian immigration protection.

The legislative effort to protect Liberians in Washington is led by Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island – a longstanding supporter of Liberian immigration who has championed several legislations on the floor of the U.S. Congress to protect Liberian immigrants including one currently in process to adjust the status of Liberians on DED and those formerly on TPS to permanent residency.

In the 11th hour of uncertainty, leaders, of the movement have remained hopeful with growing support from many quarters. On Thursday, a release from the Church World Service confirmed that 119 faith-based organizations, and 509 faith leaders sent a letter to President Trump on Thursday, March 22, urging him to extend DED for nearly 4,000 Liberians for a minimum of 18 months. Thousands of Letters and calls have also poured in to the halls of Congress and the White House in support of Liberians.

In the wake of the Washington lobby, Liberian diaspora leaders paid a courtesy call on the Liberian Ambassador to Washington H.E. Lois Brutus, during which talks were held regarding the role of the Liberian government in the unfolding moments of a potential crisis.

DED is traditionally granted by the President of the U.S. as a diplomatic courtesy in respect to longstanding relations between the two nations while recognizing the potential of adverse consequences upon a friendly nation by any action to deport thousands of its nationals. This premise set the basis for the first issue of the Executive Order of DED in 1999 by President Willian Jefferson “Bill” Clinton.

Proactive Measures Taken

Members of the Minnesota and Wash. DC delegations (L_R) Caroline Grimes, Massa Morgan, Dr. Kondeh Greaves, Wynfred Russell, Tanya Greaves-Young, Abdullah Kiatamba

While maintaining hope for reprieve, leaders of the movement have already launched proactive measures to provide essential legal guidance to those who may be affected in the event of non-extension.

In step two of their strategic effort, a National Conference on Immigration was held over the weekend in the suburbs of Washington DC. The event was sponsored by the Liberian Community Association (LCA) of the Washington DC Metropolitan Area in collaboration with ULAA.

The event brought together a host of Liberian immigration lawyers along with legal experts from ACT to render legal advice to Liberian nationals affected by DED. Major presenters at the Conference include Cllrs. Edward W. Neufville III, Christy Williams, and Stephen B.  Freeman, along with Hiwot Berihun of ACT.

Key topics discussed included “Knowing Your Rights”; “Current State of Play on DED & Advocacy for Extension”; “What Are Your Immigration Legal Options”;  and “How to Prepare for Family and Property for Possible Termination of Status”.

A similar exercise was conducted last May by another team of Liberian lawyers lead by Cllrs. Patricia Minikon, and Wala Blegay, along with Amaha Kassa of ACT.

History of DED/TPS

At the onset of the Liberia civil war in 1989, concerns arose over the safety of Liberian citizens in the United States with expired immigration statuses without a stable home to return to.

Protection was offered under the provisions the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) offering Temporary Protected Status (TPS) or relief from removal under circumstances of war, disaster, or other devastating phenomena.

Under U.S. laws, an estimated fifteen thousand Liberians were granted TPS in 1991 by President George H.W. Bush, and consequently granted registration documents and employment authorization for a specific duration.

Liberians have since enjoyed relief from removal for the longest period of those who have had TPS or other forms of blanket relief from deportation. Since the first designation of TPS in March 1991 at the onset of the Liberian civil war, thousands of Liberians have remained under some form of temporary immigration protection lasting throughout the period of war and intermittent instability in their homeland.

In 1999, shortly after the initial end of the civil war, the status of approximately 10,000 Liberians was first converted from TPS by President Bill Clinton by an Executive Order of Deferred Enforced Departure (DED).

The order was granted after strategic discussions between Liberian diaspora leaders in Washington along with the Congressional Black Caucus and members of the U.S. House and Senate Foreign Relations Committees.

As a result of the discussions, President Clinton was urged to take action in the interest of Liberians as a means of diplomatic courtesy. DED was hence granted as a diplomatic courtesy to Liberia recognizing the long standing and historical ties between the two nations, and in recognition of the potential of adverse consequences upon a friendly nation by any action to deport thousands of its nationals in the aftermath of crisis.

This order took effect after the expiration of TPS on September 28, 1999. By law, TPS could no longer be extended through the U.S. Justice Department due to relative stability in Liberia brought by elections and the ongoing peace process. Liberian DED was extended through April 2001, and subsequently extended to September 29, 2002.

On October 1, 2002, upon another outbreak of war, Liberia was re-designated for TPS for a period of 12 months. The designation was subsequently renewed continuously throughout the interim period leading to the elections, and subsequent inauguration of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in 2006.

On September 20, 2006, however, the George W. Bush Administration announced that Liberian TPS would again expire on October 1, 2007. Through lobbying and diplomatic interventions, DED was again granted by Executive Order through March 31, 2009.

On March 23, 2009, upon assuming office, President Obama easily extended DED for Liberians until March 31, 2010, and continued in similar gesture throughout his administration. On March 18, 2010, President Obama extended DED for Liberians through September 30, 2011.

Previously, only the statuses of those under Liberian DED protection had been extended through September 30, 2014. But with the Ebola outbreak, an additional set of Liberians along with other nationals from Sierra Leone, and Guinea were separately granted TPS through May 20, 2015.

This designation was further renewed in April 2016 under Obama. Before leaving office, Obama again extended the Ebola TPS through April 2017, and separately, another extension of DED was granted through the current period ending March 31, 2018.

On September 22, 2016, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued a reminder that designations of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone would terminate effective May 21, 2017.

As uncertainty remains regarding the extension of the current March 31st deadline, the specter of a looming crisis cannot be denied. The mass deportation of thousands of Liberians from the U.S. would set a negative precedence triggering similar actions from neighboring countries.

In the current climate of severe economic hardship in Liberia, the nation cannot afford the loss of hundreds of millions in remittances from Liberians abroad who now stand to lose their work permits. Given the prevailing conditions in Liberia with soaring unemployment, lack of basic housing, food insecurity, and insufficient access to public health, a modicum of crisis could spell a return to instability.

The consequences of such an advent could render futile decades of U.S. and international effort geared towards peace and reconstruction, and diminish hundreds of millions in foreign aid directed towards political and economic reconstruction.

Hence, an extension of the status of Liberians in the U.S. will serve a useful purpose in a bid to allow the Liberian nation to regain its footing from years of political unrest and severe economic hardship. This reality of adverse consequences should be recognized in the course of the longstanding historical ties between Liberia and the United States.

About the Author:
John F. Lloyd is a former leader of both the Liberian Community in Washington DC, and ULAA. In the years of the Liberian civil war, he served as a leading voice for Liberian Immigration protection at the U.S. Congress, and also a recognized spokeman for the peace process in 2003 -2005. Prior to the civil war he served as a reporter of the Daily Observer.

Authors

9 COMMENTS

  1. Guys (and gals), in case you didn’t notice, the civil war in Liberia has been finished for near on 15 years!… so there’s no for you to be sheltering in the USA. Where is your patriotism? It’s time to come back to mama Liberia and bring your new found skills, experiences, and wealth with you, to help build the nation.

    • I’m sorry Wannabe Citizen, but your idea that thousands of Liberians who have been abroad for decades should just come back with empty hands, no place to stay, no jobs etc., is not very thoughtful. From an economic standpoint, your argument makes absolutely no sense. Have you considered the great loss to Liberia if these Liberians after investing in America for decades are forced to return home with no opportunity or flexibility to return to the U.S. and transfer the hundreds of millions in their U.S. investments back home to Liberia? Don’t we need that money too in Liberia? How about the western union transfers they are sending everyday because they have jobs in America that they will not find here? My brother we both know that it is a fact that the country is bankrupt financially, with absolutely no policies, resources , or capacity to integrate these thousands who lost their families and homes in the war. So as the writer suggests – why can’t we think a bit and strategically support the approach to have the U.S. Congress grant them green cards first so they can return freely with the flexibility of transferring their wealth back to Liberia? Our country need to pull every string to recover right now. It sounds good to say return, return. But returning thousands with nothing, and no national agenda will definitely create a burden instead of opportunities for our poor economy.

      • I hear you, however the clue for their permission to stay (thus far) in the USA is in the name of that permission itself, i.e. ‘Temporary Protected Status’ (TPS), which is, and was, only ever meant to be TEMPORARY.

        Furthermore, Liberia is no longer considered a country for which TPS applies, and those Liberians whom were covered TPS are now only in the USA as a result of DED… which is a grace & favour permission granted entirely at the whim of the President.

        If DED is not extended on the 31st March 2018 (and only President Trump knows what he’s going to do about that), and failing the grant of any alternative approval for them to reside within the USA, a good number of Liberians will very likely be coming home to Mama Liberia to start afresh; but I suspect that they’ll soon get used to the system, though of which they’ll have no choice in the matter and – for some, at least – they’ll be no worse off at home in Mama Liberia than in the USA, plus that their newly found skills and entrepreneurism will be welcome.

        https://www.uscis.gov/humanitarian/temporary-protected-status-deferred-enforced-departure/temporary-protected-status-designated-country-liberia

    • How are we going to help when you all do not consider us to be Liberians. Some of you say we in the USA are coming home to take your JOBS

  2. I wish the lobbyists well. While lobbying the US government, it will be a good idea for the TPS holders to be lobbied as well. In other words, the TPS holders must and should do what it takes to consolidate themselves. Just do it, but don’t do anything illegally. Follow the rule of law. I hope my suggestion will not be construed as being out of sync with the plight of the TPS holders. Of course not. Good luck.

  3. A very great article. Very comprehensive narrative. But i fully agree with Hney. If there are 4000 Liberians affected. Where are they at these rallies. even 500 of them could make a real difference.

    • Sayku T. Kromah and F. Hney it’s not that simple, everyone case is unique and need to find the best remedy to their issues. Maybe they are not in the forefront for fear of been stigmatized, or better yet targeted by ICE? I bet there are many who find themselves in this peculiar situation that are part of the advocacy process and yet afraid to out themselves, as it’s a very vulnerable position to find yourself in. We pray that the president will make the right decision by granting our Liberian brothers and sister a reprieve.

  4. DED Granted Country – Liberia

    ALERT: On March 27, 2018, President Trump issued a memo directing the Department of Homeland Security to begin a 12-month wind-down period of Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) for Liberians, starting April 1, 2018, and running through March 31, 2019. USCIS will automatically extend employment authorization documents (EADs) for current Liberian DED beneficiaries who have EADs bearing a March 31, 2018 expiration date until Sept. 30, 2018, but beneficiaries will need to apply for employment authorization for the final 6 months. We will update this page with additional details when the Federal Register Notice is published in the coming days.

  5. Jones,
    I think Kromah shares my sentiment. We are not suggesting that Liberian TPS holders should throw themselves out there to be deported. What happens if Trump doesn’t agree to change his mind? Jones, don’t think for one nano second that we’re being insensitive. We wish them well. May God bless them.

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