“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.