Liberian DED Residents in America Left in Limbo as U.S. District Court Dismisses Lawsuit

The hopes of nearly 4,000 Liberians residing in the U.S. on Deferred Enforced Departure immigration status have been left in limbo after the judge of a district court in Massachusetts ruled to dismiss a lawsuit filed on behalf of the Liberian DED beneficiaries.

A Boston-based nonprofit group had filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Liberians against President Donald Trump’s decision to end the DED program by March 30, 2020.

Lawyers representing the Liberians argued in a hearing earlier this month that Trump’s decision to end the program was rooted in racism and is therefore unconstitutional.

According to a U.S.-based publication, Judge Timothy Hillman of the U.S. District Court in Worcester dismissed the case on Monday, October 28 on grounds that the court does not have the authority to force the president to protect the Liberians from deportation.

“Even assuming the court could declare the termination decision void as the product of an unlawful process and/or enjoin enforcement of it, DED only continues if the president renews it,” the judge said.

“DED, in other words, will still expire on March 31, 2020, absent any affirmative action by President Trump. And this court lacks the authority to compel the president to take that action.”

He said the authority for the DED program comes from the executive branch’s constitutional power to conduct foreign affairs.

Trump’s decision to end DED for Liberians is part of a broad effort to cancel longstanding programs that allow groups of immigrants to temporarily reside in the U.S., including Temporary Protected Status and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.

In the past, such programs have received broad bipartisan support. But like Temporary Protected Status and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, DED offers no pathway to citizenship, only periodic extensions by the president.

Both programs had been kept alive by court orders, but so far there has not been a ruling on DED. This past March, the Trump administration extended DED for one more year but has indicated it will not do so again. About 4,000 Liberians are affected by the program.

According to the National Law Review, there has already been a legislative response to remedy the Liberians situation, although there is yet no resolution.

A Rhode Island representative, David Cicilline, introduced the Liberian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act of 2019 in March to provide legal permanent residence to Liberians who have been living in the U.S. on DED since 2014.

According to the report, another relief for the Liberians was included in the American Dream and Promise Act of 2019 that passed in the House. However, the bill is still in the Republican-dominated U.S. Senate.

The law review also revealed reports that the Liberian plaintiffs in the case dismissed by the U.S. district court are considering to appeal to the judge’s ruling.

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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