Activist Begins Tour to Raise Awareness About Liberian Mothers Airlifted by U.S. Marines

The founder of Universal Human Rights International, Torli Krua, has announced a tour of three northern U.S. states to create awareness on the plight of Liberian refugees in America.

[Full disclosure: Torli Krua is a co-owner of The Bush Chicken]

Krua said the aim of the tour was to raise awareness about the plight of thousands of Liberian refugee mothers and their American-born children who were airlifted by U.S. Marines from Liberia during Operation Shining Express ordered by President George Bush on June 12, 2003. Those parents are still living in the U.S. without a legal immigration status or work permit. Because of that, Krua says they lack access to basic human needs of food, clothing, and shelter.

Following the launch of Operation Shining Express, many children who were American citizens with Liberian parents were caught in the crossfire. He said while the Americans demanded to airlift Americans, not Liberians, the U.S. Marines requested Liberian mothers to leave behind their Liberian spouses and Liberian children to accompany their American citizen babies to America.

Those Liberian mothers were promised Temporary Protected Status, which was given to many Liberians at the time. However, he said the mothers were denied the status unjustifiably, although they applied and paid the required non-refundable fees.

“They have been denied permits to work like other refugees for nearly 17 years. UHRI is launching Operation Equal Protection to secure work permits from the Trump Administration,” said Krua, whose organization, Universal Human Rights International, has worked with thousands of immigrants from 38 different countries over the span of 20 years.

He said not only were the Liberians indefinitely separated from their family members by US Marines and airlifted to America, they have also been denied permits to work with other similarly situated refugees who are permitted to work in the U.S.

In a reference to the operation that initially brought the mothers to the U.S., Krua has called his tour ‘Operation Equal Protection’ and he intends to enlist the support of Iowa’s Senator Joni Ernst and others in writing U.S. President Donald Trump to re-designate the Deferred Enforced Departure status to allow the Liberian refugees get work permit by November 28 this year, which would be observed as Thanksgiving Day in the U.S.

Krua has a long history of championing the rights of refugees and immigrants, especially in the New England region. He was also instrumental in lobbying with U.S. congressmen and policymakers to increase the quota of refugees from Africa being allowed into the U.S. Krua has been honored by the National Peace Corps Association and the Massachusetts Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild for his work with refugees and immigrants.

Editor’s note: A previous version of this article incorrectly listed the year when the airlift occurred as 2013. Featured photo courtesy of the Emmanuel Gospel Center

Gbatemah Senah

Gbatemah is a graduate of the University of Liberia and a recipient of the Jonathan P. Hicks Scholarship for Mass Communications. In 2017, Senah won three Press Union of Liberia awards: Women's Rights Reporter of the Year, Legislative Reporter of the Year, and Land Rights Reporter of the Year. In 2018, he was also recognized as the Land Rights Reporter of the Year.

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