DED Liberians Get Another Year of Legal Immigration Status in U.S.

Liberians in the U.S. covered by the Deferred Enforced Departure immigration status are once again relieved after U.S. President Donald Trump announced a surprise extension of their legal immigration status by one year.

The extension will allow at least 4,000 Liberians to stay and work in the U.S. up to March 30, 2020. DED beneficiaries are Liberians or stateless individuals who last resided in Liberia who have lived in the U.S. since 2002 to present. Some held another immigration status called Temporary Protective Status up to September 30, 2007, and were subsequently covered by the program.

The program earlier expired in 2018, but Trump issued a memorandum extending the status for one year, which would have ended on Sunday, March 31.

Since January, Liberian activists have been campaigning for permanent resident status or a further extension of the program.

Last week, 11 members of the U.S. Congress, headed by House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, who represents Maryland’s fifth district, wrote the U.S. president asking him to take an immediate action to prevent Liberians from being deported. Minnesota’s attorney general, Keith Ellison, also co-led a coalition of attorneys general from nine states and the District of Columbia to support a lawsuit filed by Liberians to block Trump’s termination of their DED status.

In his new memorandum issued Thursday, the U.S. president said although he had determined during an initial extension of the immigration status last year that a 12-month wind-down period was appropriate, he has decided that it is in the foreign policy interest of the U.S. to extend the wind-down period for an additional 12 months.

He said the overall situation in West Africa remains concerning, and Liberia is an important regional partner for the U.S.

“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,” he said.

“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.”

He also disclosed that extending the wind-down period will preserve the status quo while Congress considers remedial legislation, adding that the relationship between the two countries is unique.

“Former African-American slaves were among those who founded the modern state of Liberia in 1847. Since that time, the United States has 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.”

The U.S. president also directed the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security to take appropriate measures to accomplish appropriate steps, such as continuing the wind‑down period through March 30, next year and terminating the status by March 31, 2020.

According to Reuters, a spokesman for the Liberian embassy in Washington, D.C., Gabriel Williams, praised the announcement and described it as a manifestation of the very cordial relationship between the U.S. and Liberia.

The report said Amaha Kassa, the executive director of African Communities Together, which also joined the lawsuit by Liberians against the Trump’s administration, said they will continue their court action in an effort to learn why the White House terminated the program in the first place.

Earlier, Minnesota’s third district representative, Dean Phillips, had sponsored the Liberian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act, H.R. 1169, aimed at providing legal status and a pathway to citizenship for qualifying Liberian refugees, while the U.S. House of Representatives also introduced the American Dream and Promise Act of 2019 to ensure the extension of the status of Liberians.

Featured photo by Flickr’s Bart

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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