The Inquirer (Monrovia)

22 December 2012

Liberia: Diaspora-Based Liberians End Confab On Dual Citizenship

Liberians in the Diaspora have declared the 1973 Alien and Nationality Law as unjust and unconstitutional. In a unanimous resolution the Diaspora-based Liberians have called on President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, pending repeal of the Law by the National Legislature, to issue an Executive Order to the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Justice as well as the Immigration Bureau and other government agencies to immediately halt the enforcement of Chapter 22 of what they described as an "unjust and discriminatory statute" regarding the loss of citizenship for natural born citizens.

The Liberians have prescribed a "don't ask, don't tell on Dual Citizenship" Executive Order from the President directing the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and consular officers to relax all stringent verification methods upon natural born Liberians, by taking action to issue Liberian passports and travel documents to "natural born" Liberians with valid documentation proving birth in Liberia irrespective of being naturalized abroad as well as provide passports to children born abroad to Liberian parents whether or not such children take oath of allegiance when they turn 18.

The Diaspora Liberians declared that the Executive Order should remain in place until a new law is enacted to repeal the existing Alien and Nationality Law of 1973 which deprives natural born Liberians of their birth rights while discriminating against the offspring of Liberian women. These tenets of the Law, they declared, exist in contravention to the Liberian Constitution and international accords to which Liberia is signatory. Nearly one third of the membership of the Liberian Senate and several members of the House of Representatives have given their expressed consent to the repeal effort.

In strong solidarity, Diaspora Liberians from various regions of the United States, Europe, and other countries resolved that to deprive a person of a constitutional right, especially the inherent right to citizenship, the state must show a compelling national interest to be protected.

They asserted however, that there is no compelling national interest to uniformly and automatically strip hundreds of thousands of Liberians who fled the 14-year civil war of their citizenship and consequently debar them from owning land or other real estates in their native home because of their act of naturalizing abroad. They pointed out that the decision to naturalize abroad is directly related to issues of survival, and to expand opportunities for themselves and their relatives in Liberia, while declaring their firm commitment to maintain full Liberian citizenship.

The declaration was contained in a Resolution issued recently at the end of the well-attended All Liberian National Conference on Dual Citizenship which convened in Washington, DC from December 7-8, 2012. The conference resolution also called on the National Legislature to repeal with urgency, the 1973 Alien and Nationality Law as amended in 1974 to allow for retention of citizenship for natural born Liberians who naturalize in a foreign country, take oath or make an affirmation of allegiance to a foreign state, vote in a political election of a foreign state, enter or serve in the armed forces of a foreign state or marry to a citizen of a foreign state as well as to provide for children born outside the country of Liberian mothers to enjoy the same citizenship rights already being enjoyed by children of Liberian fathers.

The conference was organized by the Union of Liberian Associations in the Americas (ULAA), The European Federation of Liberian Associations (EFLA), Conference of Liberian Organizations in the Southwestern United States (COLOSUS), and a Washington, DC based Liberian lobbying group, Coalition of Concerned Liberians (CCL), in collaboration with the Embassy of Liberia in Washington DC. Montserrado County Senior Senator, Joyce Musu Freeman Sumo and the Liberian Ambassador to the United States, His Excellency Jeremiah Sulunteh attended the conference and stayed for the entire duration of the Saturday session. Liberians from all the 15 counties were represented at the conference and leaders of county organizations including Nimba, Bomi, Sinoe, Bassa, Margibi and Lofa spoke for their organizations.

In the resolution, Diaspora Liberians further declared that the 1973 Alien and Nationality Law is in violation of Articles 11(c), 20(a), Article 27(a) and 95(a) of the National Constitution, and discriminates on the basis of gender because the statute does not recognize children born outside Liberia unto Liberian mothers as Liberian citizens but recognizes children born outside the country to Liberian fathers as natural born Liberians.

The resolution also highlighted the good intentions of Liberian immigrants who are seizing on opportunities to naturalize abroad in order to obtain jobs that are reserved for citizens, gain priority in bringing family members to countries like the United States as immigrants, have greater eligibility for government-sponsored social benefits such as social security supplemental income, education and medical assistance that are reserved for citizens, or get exemption from the routine reporting requirements that are imposed on resident aliens often with exorbitant fees.

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