— As U.S. lawmakers, advocates push for permanent status for Liberians
United States President Donald Trump has granted Liberians living in that country a one year extension on the Deferred Enforced Departure (DED), which will now expire on March 30, 2020.
The DED, which allows thousands of Liberians to live and work legally in the US, was supposed to expire on March 31, 2019, thereby putting several Liberians on the DED status at risk of deportation.
However, on Thursday, March 28, 2019 three days to the deadline, after massive lobbying from the Union of Liberian Associations in the Americas (ULAA), the Liberian Community Association (LCA) in Washington DC, the CASA immigrant lobby group in Hyattsville, Maryland and support congressional delegations, President Trump has extended the DED for one year for those Liberians concerned.
In an Executive Order issued on Thursday, March 28, President Trump said: “upon further reflection and review, I have decided that it is in the foreign policy interest of the United States to extend the wind-down period for an additional 12 months, through March 30, 2020. The overall situation in West Africa remains concerning, and Liberia is an important regional partner for the United States.”
“The reintegration of DED beneficiaries into Liberian civil and political life will be a complex task, and an unsuccessful transition could strain United States-Liberian relations and undermine Liberia’s post-civil war strides toward democracy and political stability.
“Further, I understand that there are efforts underway by members of Congress to provide relief for the small population of Liberian DED beneficiaries, who remain in the United States. Extending the wind-down period will preserve the status quo, while the Congress considers remedial legislation,“ Trump said.
The US President also added that the relationship between the United States and Liberia is unique and that the US has over the years sought to honor, through a strong bilateral diplomatic partnership, the sacrifices of individuals, who were determined to build a modern democracy in Africa with representative political institutions similar to those of the United States.
President Trump further said that he has instructed secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen, to take appropriate measures to accomplish his mandate, which includes the termination of DED for all Liberian beneficiaries at the end of March next year; and the continuation of the wind-down period during which current Liberian DED beneficiaries, who satisfy the description may remain in the United States.
“As part of that wind-down, continued authorization for employment through March 30, 2020, for current Liberian DED beneficiaries, who satisfy the description within the 12-month wind-down period and authorization for employment, shall apply to any current Liberian DED beneficiary, who has continuously resided in the United States since October 1, 2002,” President Trump said.
However, he said the DED will not be extended to Liberians with “bad records,” including individuals, who are ineligible for Temporary Protection Status (TPS) for reasons set forth in section 244(c)(2)(B) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1254a(c)(2)(B)); and Individuals whose removal the Secretary of Homeland Security determines to be in the interest of the United States.
President Trump added that DED extension will not be granted to Liberians whose presence or activities in the United States the Secretary of State has reasonable grounds to believe would have potentially serious adverse foreign policy consequences for the United States; Individuals who have voluntarily returned to Liberia or their country of last habitual residence outside the United States; and Individuals who were deported, excluded, or removed before the date of this memorandum; or Individuals who are subject to extradition.
Meanwhile, U.S. Senator Jack Reed (Democrat, Rhode Island) has backed President Trump’s decision to extend DED for Liberians, and therefore, called on Congress to enact a permanent legislative resolution.
Senator Reed is the author of the Liberian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act, a bill which provides legal status and a pathway to citizenship for qualifying Liberians.
“On a divisive issue like immigration, I appreciate this a positive step by President Trump. It’s good news for eligible Liberians, for Rhode Island, and our workforce. But it is only temporary relief when what we really need is a permanent fix that puts these law-abiding taxpayers on a path to full citizenship,” the Senator said.
“Separating and uprooting hundreds of Liberian-American families from their jobs and homes and forcing them to return to a country that is unrecognizable for many of them would not have been in America’s best interests.
“In the long-term, we still need a solution that provides certainty for this population, allowing them to get on a pathway to full citizenship. It is time for Congress to act on legislation that gives Liberians an opportunity to remain here permanently,” Senator Jack Reed said.
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison is spearheading a legal effort by 10 attorneys general to preserve the Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) program, which has helped thousands of Liberians settle in Minnesota and other parts of the United States to escape civil war being fought there since the early 1990s, as well as environmental disasters and the Ebola virus, the Star Tribune reports.
Minnesota is home to nearly 16,000 people who were born in Liberia or claim Liberian ancestry.
“Making people ride this roller-coaster year after year is inhumane, hurts families, and wreaks havoc on our economy and communities. It’s no way for any Minnesotan to live,” Ellison said.