Monrovia — When the clock strikes midnight Saturday, March 31, 2018, some 4,200 Liberians, who have been living in America on a protective Deferred Enforcement Departure status will either be packing their bags and ready to be sent to their homeland - or celebrating a rare act of mercy by U.S. President Donald Trump.
On Tuesday, the Liberian community received the strong backing of some 53 members of the US Congress, who delivered a bicameral letter to President Trump prevailing on him to extend the humanitarian immigration program that has allowed an estimated 4,200 Liberians to escape two successive civil wars in their country. The program was renewed by President George W. Bush and twice by President Obama.
In the letter, the US lawmakers strongly urged President Trump to extend for at least three years Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) for Liberians residing legally in the United States. "We ask that you take this action immediately in order to avoid anxiety and uncertainty in our Liberian-American communities," the members of Congress wrote.
In the appeal to Trump, the lawmakers said the civil war which broke out in 1989 and lasted for seven-years claim the lives of over 200,000 people and displace more than half of the Liberian population. "During the conflict, food production halted, and the country's infrastructure and economy were destroyed. A second civil war followed from 1999 to 2003, which ended with the departure from power of former President Charles Taylor, who is currently serving a 50-year prison sentence by the Special Court of Sierra Leone for war crimes. Then in 2014, Liberia's recovering health system faced the challenge of responding to the Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa."
The letter continued: "During this long succession of uniquely tragic circumstances, thousands of Liberians who were forced from their homes sought refuge in the United States. Attorney General Thornburgh first granted Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to Liberians present in the United States in 1991 and, since that time, subsequent Administrations have extended TPS and DED for Liberians in recognition of the danger and instability in the region. DED for Liberians is scheduled to expire on March 31,2018."
The lawmakers said the US must continue to do all that is necessary to assist in the re-emergence of Liberia, ensure regional stability, help foster Liberia's continuing post-war recovery, and protect our country's substantial foreign policy assistance and peacekeeping investments in Liberia. "With its recent presidential election, Liberia has only just completed its first democratic transfer of power in decades, and there are still serious concerns about the nation's ability to maintain peace and deliver essential services to its population. A flood of Liberians from the United States could overburden the country's limited infrastructure and reverse the advances the nation of Liberia has made. It would also stem the crucial socio-economic investment and assistance that Liberians in our country provide through remittances to their relatives in Liberia. As such, we believe it is beneficial for both countries if this population is permitted to remain in the United States for at least three additional years."
Several Liberians rallied at the Minnesota State Capitol on Monday in a bid to draw attention to their plight in hopes of at least a temporary extension but critics say should President Trump decide to extend Liberians on the program must begin pushing to improve their status of prepare to return home as there is currently no path to legal status, much less citizenship under the DED.
FrontPageAfrica has learned that advocates including the Union of Liberians in America are still pressing more lawmakers to come on) board with the push. A meeting with Congressman Dan Donovan(11th District, New York and a Liberian delegation is said to be planned for Wednesday.
Advocates leading the charge are hopeful that President Trump will come through but many are unsure whether he will extend for the three years lawmakers are seeking.
Last September, South Sudan received a late miracle when the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced the extension of South Sudan for TPS and that eligible South Sudanese nationals (and persons without nationality. Many within the Liberian Diaspora are hoping President Trump delivers at the last hour.