U.S. Federal Judge Dismisses DED Liberians’ Case for Permanent Status

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A group of Liberian DED holders and their allies protest in Worcester, Massachusetts prior to a court hearing on Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2019. (Photo: Tania Karas/The World)

“We think this ruling is mistaken, and we are currently researching all options,” says advocate.

A U.S. federal judge has issued a ruling in the Liberian DED lawsuit, dismissing the case. Though he found that Liberians with DED would be harmed if DED ends, the judge did not believe he had the authority to order Trump to continue the program.

“We think this ruling is mistaken, and we are currently researching all options– including filing an appeal of the decision to a higher court,” said Wynfred Russell on Facebook yesterday.  Russell is a Liberian-born advocate and a council member of the City of Brooklyn Park, MN.

“For now, nothing will change. The one-year extension of DED will remain March 31, 2020, and will not be affected by this decision. We will continue to pursue every path – in court, in Congress, and in the community – to protect Liberian DED holders,” he said.

The African Communities Together v. Trump lawsuit, brought by The UndocuBlack Network and African Communities Together, filed in March, challenged the Trump administration’s decision to terminate Deferred Enforced Departure, reported Steph Solis for Americasvoice.org. The relief offers some 4,000 Liberians relief from deportation, the lawsuit states.

“I think, in general, folks don’t understand what being in limbo means,” said Patrice Lawrence, co-director of UndocuBlack Network, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit. “People think if this is a humanitarian protection, there should be some sort of end point or permanence for folks, but that doesn’t really exist.”

Dozens of Liberian immigrants, loved ones and immigrant rights advocates crowded outside the U.S. District Court building in Worcester calling for permanent protections for DED holders, many who have lived in the country for two decades.

… Othello Dennis, a case manager at Catholic Charities, said he has lived in the U.S. for more than 19 years and has DED. He has twin boys, both who are 10, and works with other children through the Angels Net Foundation.

“We are working in the interest of the country, to lift the country up,” said Dennis, 62, of Worcester. “We are not criminals.”

… Attorneys representing those with DED say that ending the relief means Liberians would have to choose between living in the shadows or returning to a country where they’re not safe, leaving behind their U.S.-citizen children.

A federal judge’s order extended protections for immigrants with Temporary Protected Status as their lawsuits move through the courts, but explaining that to employers and government officials can prove tricky.

Ami Sumareh, 20, told MassLive on Wednesday that if her mother is deported to Liberia, she will have to drop out of college and take care of her 12-year-old brother.

“Obviously, I wouldn’t want him to fall into a foster care system, and subsequently I would have to drop my schooling for the time being,” said Sumareh, who studies graphic design at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

Dennis, the father of two in Worcester, said his sons wanted to join him in federal court on Wednesday.

“I said, ‘no, you go to school,’” he told MassLive. “One wants to be a lawyer, and another wants to be a doctor.”

Yatta Kiazolu, a DED holder and 28-year-old PhD candidate studying history at the University of California, Los Angeles told Tania Karas of PRI’s The World that, “The program being terminated means I would have to self-deport to a country I’ve never lived in.” Born in Botswana to Liberian parents, she came to the US at age 6.

“Terminating the program has meant great uncertainty,” Kiazolu said. “I am supposed to be filing my dissertation, and there have been interruptions over the past two years because the termination has meant I cannot plan a certain future.”

During the hearing, Hillman asked tough questions of both the plaintiffs and defense whether the court could order any legal remedy if it “hypothetically” agreed with the plaintiffs’ assertion that Trump’s decision was based on racial animus.

Judge Hillman asked Joshua Kolsky, the Department of Justice lawyer, whether the court could order any legal remedy if it “hypothetically” agreed with the plaintiffs’ assertion that Trump’s decision was based on racial animus.

“The president has wide discretion on making decisions of national security,” Kolsky said, adding that only Congress has the power to enable the Liberians to stay permanently — by passing legislation.

Kolsky also pointed to indicators that the situation in Liberia had improved. The United Nations ended its mission in Liberia in March 2018, Kolsky said, citing remarks by the UN Secretary-General that Liberia had made “remarkable peace gains” over the past 14 years.

The plaintiffs’ attorneys disagreed, citing ongoing political instability as well as the Ebola outbreak in Liberia. They also pointed to numerous vulgar comments the president has made on African countries and immigrants generally as evidence Trump did not end the program on foreign policy or national security grounds. Still, the judge questioned what form of judicial relief he could provide.

“This is one of those instances where I have a lot of authority but not power. And in this instance, the power is with the executive,” US District Court Judge Timothy S. Hillman told Sozi Pedro Tulante, one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys.

Unfortunately, the decision from Hillman was not favorable.

Howbeit, DED Liberians remain hopeful that before March 2020 their status should hopefully be renewed or converted to permanent residency — hopefully. That being the result of continuous efforts to push their case, as Russell said, “in court, in Congress and in the community.” 

At least 4,000 US citizen’s children nationwide have a Liberian parent with DED status, according to Lawyers for Civil Rights. This means the parents find themselves in a difficult position. They can remain in the US without legal papers, or go back to Liberia without their children.

Earlier this year, attorneys general from 10 states across the country filed an amicus brief in support of the plaintiffs and their children, saying the end of DED would hurt local communities and families.

“This would deprive the amici states’ economies and communities of positive contributions from coworkers and neighbors who have lived here for decades,” they wrote. “Our health care industries, in particular, would suffer, as many Liberians work in that field.”

For many Liberians, the program is a lifeline. Many support family back home in Liberia with their US income and have not been able to visit Liberia in all their years of living in the US. And after two decades in the US, Liberia is no longer home, said Othello Dennis, a social worker and co-founder of Angels-Net Foundation, a nonprofit in Worcester that helps new immigrants and refugees adjust to life in the United States.

27 COMMENTS

  1. Our poor brothers and sisters in America face deportation or “living in the shadows”. Our poor brothers and sisters in Liberia are suffering! Besides God, where can we go?

    The opposition Leaders “are fighting among themselves about who is fit to be President”

    Opposition leaders should stop being “cry babies” and extert positive efforts to support “their beloved country, Liberia”. Come to the table with the President, starting with “things you agree with”, “things you can support”. Positive efforts can place you in a position to express your disagreement to him ..directly..without newspapers… or marches!!! More people are suffering because” When elephants fight,, the grass will suffer”

    Meet President Weah…”half-way”…talk to him, “he’s human, not a leopard”. He fights back because he is attacked!!

    Some of your points in the opposition are valid. The question is “how do you get across to him”…Are you successful by “angering him “? He’s President, whether you like it or not. He was elected by a “majority vote”..whether you like it or not.

    People are NOT benefitting from the “fighting”…poor people are NOT!!

    My friends..”I am tired oh!!!!

  2. If the DEDs’ kids are grown, the kids can petition for their parents in order to legalize them. If the DEDs’ kids are below 18, the issue becomes a hot potato.
    I know a gentleman whose kids are grown, but the kids have refused to petition for their dad. The gentleman returned to Liberia. Very frustrated he was. I don’t know what’s really wrong with some of these kids. Americanized?

    All I can say is I wish y’all well.

  3. Four guys never come home when they take off; the spoken word, the wasted time , the pass life and neglected opportunity.
    Time is a rare luxury which can never be purchased at any cost.
    . Liberia is your native land and do not curse your country to please politician whose objective is to have his pocket fill. Today you guys are comrades, tomorrow enemies.

  4. If the Liberia was a better country, I could not worry to return to my own country. But Liberia is mess up in the diaspora world. Liberians like refugees in their own country. Everybody is confused, the blind is leading the blind.

  5. In as much as I feel the pain of brothers and sisters on DED, the verdict is a metaphor for why grandstanding and abrasiveness of some of us have made Liberia a contentiously polarized losing state since sensational lies of theft were used in toppling EJ Roye and murdering him. Notwithstanding he was reportedly the richest man before running for office, the killers defiled the corpse by filling his pockets with money as fruit of crime. We haven’t changed one bit – always lying backward and forward plotting some mischief or upheaval.

    DED for Liberians has been an issue from Clinton’s tenure; and the fact that only Congress has power to enable those affected become permanent residents is public knowledge. So, it begs the question, why didn’t advocates take the Legislature route all these years, instead sued President Trump when the world is still stunned by the slaughter of Nigerians in South Africa? (A cousin on DED wondered whether why advocates took such a risky action). Lest some forget, the immigrant issue is a global problem, and we have some form of xenophobia even at home nobody proud of.

    Unless we Liberians stop the grandstanding, abrasiveness, and constant oversimplification of complex issues, the robotic one liners of “Bring our money back”, “Save the State”, or “Step down” will drag our country to the edge again. An African American friend who’s a Democrat told me that the lawsuit was unfair and disrespectful to Trump. And, tellingly, Judge Hillman who dismissed the case is an Obama appointee and a Democrat. Our perennial addition to confusion should remain in Liberia.

  6. The word ‘addiction’ in the concluding sentence wrongly spelt “addition” is significant to understanding the drift of my comment to not make note of it as a typo.

  7. Sengbeh,
    You have a good point! I have returned from Liberia. As a person who has lived out of Liberia for a very long time, I was seen by some people as a space alien or as a sort of a refugee in my own country!

    • Hney – The people back home are pure evil. When they call for money I don’t even bother to take their calls anymore. You’re planning to go back there to farm you better be careful because they know you’re bringing money and if you don’t give them money, they will hate you. Bunch of nasty family people we have there in Liberia. They’re bunch of ignorant and hypocrite.

  8. When President Obama wanted to terminate DED, Liberians, including President Sirleaf appealed to him, but took President Trump to court and charged him with racism. Real smart LIB! Take it to the Supreme Court, and if rejected, even Liberians residing in the US legally will be subjected to unnecessary profiling. LIB think! Lawyers are in it to make money and names for themselves! It is not you, stupid!

  9. A very hot issue, this DED. Liberians on DED living in the States need to start to rethink their angle when the time comes for them to leave, and they need to start to rethink very soon, because before you know it, that time is here.

    Like Uncle Hney rightly said, some of the kids who are over 18 years can petition for their parents but some have become so “americanized” that it become an issue in itself.

    We can only hope that Trump give them another year or two.

  10. Why can’t we collectively fight to change things in mama Liberia? That’s where we belong, where we were born and where we should make things better for ourselves and children.
    Hney, the story about the man who was deported without the children’s reaction is an interesting one.
    Unity with common exerted pressure can change Liberia.

    • Yes Dolo,
      We certainly need a fight. But the kind of fight we need is not a brute force fight. A senseless brutal war was fought. We the Liberian people did not win. As you can see, there isn’t any meaningful mutation. The Monrovia streets are jammed with marketers. Our public schools are overcrowded. Some Community Colleges are not credited. No current (electricity) in some parts of Monrovia. No good roads. So why did we fight? Did 250,000 people (including my sister in the Bong Mines) have to die in order to elect the do-nothings who make over $175,000 per year?

      Who are the the winners of our bloody nasty war? The Liberian crooks! They’re enjoying the country while the people suffer. The second group of winners are our neighboring countries. Countries such as Ghana, the Ivory coast Guinea, etc. Example, while we fought bitterly in Liberia, remittances from diaspora Liberians were sent in those countries. As money was poured in those countries by diaspora Liberians, their economies did not stagnate, but rather stabilized.

      So, the question is how do we fight collectively in order to bring about a meaningful change? I am not going to sound like Costa, Cummings and a bunch of blabber mouths. That’s because I am not their acolyte! Those agitators have an agenda against Weah that I detest. I want a democratic change. A kind of change that occurs at the ballot box. No more wars! Please!

      My idea of a fight calls for a nationwide democratic change. For instance, in my view, all the lawmakers, (the Representatives and Senators) of the land need to be voted out of their current positions. Why? Because while the teachers, doctors, university professors and all civil servant employees are going through hell, the Liberian legislators are doing well financially. This is complete madness, brother Dolo.

      How?
      A nationwide strike is a positive collective action. The strike must be be sensibly coordinated. The strike shouldn’t be or sound like the opposition political parties. The political name for my suggestion is called “civil disobedience”. It’s a kind of a strike that could last for months. Gandhi of India used the strategy of civil disobedience to dislodge the British. Michael Lewis King, who later on changed his name to “Martin Luther King” , the slain African American civil rights leader, used the same strategy in the US and won the hearts of most Americans.

      Dolo, check out the Montgomery Bus Boycott. For those who do not believe that the original name for Dr. ML King was ” Michael Lewis King”, check it out. It’s a fact!

  11. Instead of suing Trump, they should have lobbied him like Sirleaf did with Obama. Now, only congress can save them because they have closed the door with Trump by suing him for having racial animus against Liberians. Really? Immigration, and foreign policy are the purview of the President of the United States and Federal courts don’t usually get too involved, especially in a case such as this one making baseless, racist accusation against Trump. How is Trump a racist because be refused to renew DED? It was a terrible legal strategy. Apparently they hired a democrat-leaning lawyer who told them Trump’s action was racist and they bought into it.

  12. Phil,
    For some unknown reasons, I always find myself agreeing with you man. Look, you’re 100% right.
    I have a cousin in Cleveland, Ohio, who decided to shut her phone off because the so called relatives in Liberia are around her neck begging for money every day. Her strategy works! I called her private and joked her like this…..”cous, please let me borrow $200 from you, yah”. Laughter!

    Phil, I have just returned from home. Something happened to me that I cannot discuss. But overall, you’re right. The Minister I dealt with is a crook in the real sense of the word.

    I visited a school (name withheld) in the Monrovia area. The principal was kind enough to have me observe a teacher in his class. The male teacher was okay. But, about ten students didn’t have seats. In some rediculous situations, some students doubled up in one desk! There weren’t any textbooks. No dictionaries. No encyclopedia books.

    Phil, the best that can be done to save Liberia is for some of us in the diaspora to do business. Of course, if one does not offer free money to friends and family, they’re ready to throw voodoo.

    Where are we headed to?

    • Hney – Like minds think alike! You asked a good question: “Where are we headed to?” Well, we’re headed down a slippery slope under the current leadership in the country. The country is governed by criminals and that should say it all. Also, I have some farming tips for you because I ran a farm in Liberia for few years. You should consider growing onion because it grows well in our soil and the price is very good. Also, the shelf life is very good unlike most vegetable crop. You can buy seeds from parkseed.com. Good luck and hit me up if you need more “farming in Liberia” tips.

  13. Thanks very much for the farming tip Phil. Yap. Onions do not rot for longer periods of time. And yes, I will google parkseed.com as soon as I get off work today.

    I made a mistake by leaving in July. As you know, rainy season in Liberia starts around June. Darn. I forget! I should have gone this month. Well, I will wait for God’s appointed time.

    I want to stay clear of politics back home. It’s not worth the hassle. While people do and talk politics, people are hungry, Ivorians and Guineans supply us with pepper. What a shame?
    By God’s grace, the next few bucks I can save will speed deliver me to Liberia. I will play the lottery this week. That could help too.

    Later.

    • Hney – I would estimate that 90% of the onion is imported into Liberia from non-African countries. Only a small amount comes from Guinea. Another good advantage in addition to shelf life is you don’t need a lot of land because onion is planted about 4 inch apart by 12 inch rows. So one acre could yield a few hundred 50 lbs sack of onion. The retail price when I was there was US$45 per 50 lbs sack. Also, don’t try to grow everything because it’s difficult to manage. Every crop has different needs. I suggest you specialize in a couple of crops like American farmers do and be very good at growing it. Watch out for everyone telling you what to grow and how to grow it. Most Liberian farmers don’t know how to grow sweet potatoes much less tomato and stuff. Do you know people still grow sweet potato from vines in Liberia which doesn’t yield anything? I had to explain to people that they were doing it wrong. They were totally surprised but that’s what we learned from our parents. Sweet potato must be grown from slips or sprouts. That’s how it’s grown in the South. Call me if you have questions 401-829-5793.

  14. Eventually I will. My top priority is to ship a car. But I will get in touch with you when the car has been shipped.

    I will keep in touch.

  15. Uncle Hney, you already Trump’s right hand man, so why you playing the lottery again? Leave it to people like to try out luck, Sir. yes, you came here the bad time concerning how it rained heavily this year. Come back soon again, if you can.

    Back to the issue at hand, the Legislature is filled with unscrupulous individuals, so one has to be very careful how you deal with them. Some of them are unfailingly honest but they are in the very minority.

    One way to go in this country is to invest heavily agriculture, and the small NGO that I run, we are heavily involved in that and we hope to take it to a larger scale, so Uncle Hney, please be buying seeds while you in the States because when I come, I will contact to please send me some seeds to bring back home for planting.

    like I always say, Liberia is the only country we have and we always have to talk about the ills in order to bring it to the limelight, that is all we can do.

    Peace

  16. JM,
    It’s always a pleasure to hear from you. Sorry I didn’t see you while I was in Liberia. I have a few seeds left. I will urge one of my younger siblings to locate you if you don’t mind. I gave my seeds to some Liberians I do not know. Now, what’s about you?
    Keep in touch.

    • Uncle Honey,

      Thank you for your kind offer. I’m willing to meet your people anytime anywhere for the seeds. The only exception is Sunday. Am not available at all on that day.

      Also be informed that I will be out of the country 12/10/19 – 12/29/19. Inform your family that you having a guest on Christmas Day.

      Again, thank you

      Peace

  17. Okay JM,
    In a few days, I will get in touch with you. I will arrange a place for y’all to meet once I have consulted with them.

    Since you bother me so much, I will take you to a restaurant. You eat all you can eat. You fill your plate and eat. When your food finishes, you get up, and take another clean plate, load it up and eat until you can’t eat.

    JM, I mean it! You don’t have to worry about paying a penny. I will pick up the tab. I will eat too. If my boys are available, they’ll come to join us.

    You guys eat Palm butter over rice, or fufu with okra sauce or hot pepper soup with goat meat or collard greens every day. I don’t eat okra. Never! Ask my brothers when you meet them.

    But, I will stuff you up with Chinese food and possibly some Whoppers from Burger King! How’s about french fries? Let’s go to a restaurant called 5 guys! Or maybe a Hispanic restaurant where you will eat ovenbaked chicken with thick fries.

    When I am done with you, you will not mess with me anymore. Your girlfriend or wife will yell at you when you return. Get here soon.

    See you.

  18. Uncle Honey,

    Chey, take it easy with me. That my first time traveling on that side so don’t come make me eat plenty and will start to yearn for it again once I return home.

    But, all kidding aside, thank you for your kind offer and what is most important is that I am looking forward to finally meeting my famous uncle Honey.

    Peace

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