Leading members of the United States Congress led by House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (MD), and U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Eliot Engel have issued an urgent call to President Donald Trump to take immediate action to extend the status of Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) for thousands of Liberians in the U.S.
DED is set to expire by midnight on March 31, 2019 leaving thousands of Liberians subject to removal unless executive action is taken by President Trump to extend the designation.
In a joint letter dispatched to the White House over the weekend, House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (MD) joined House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel (NY) highlighted the importance of DED to U.S. Liberia foreign policy, and strategic national interests. The Congressional leaders issued the call after high level discussion with leaders of the Liberian Community Association (LCA) and ULAA officials in Washington DC.
Other signatories include House Foreign Affairs Africa, Global Health, and Human Rights Subcommittee Chairwoman Karen Bass (CA-37), Senate Foreign Relations Committee Member Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD), Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (MD-07), Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (MD-02), Rep. John Sarbanes (MD-03), Rep. Jamie Raskin (MD-08), Rep. Anthony Brown (MD-04), and House Foreign Affairs Committee Member Rep. David Trone (MD-06).
They called upon President Trump to take action immediately to prevent several thousand Liberians in the U.S. with DED status from being deported from the U.S. They noted, "These refugees, who came here in recent years fleeing civil war and disease outbreak, are facing a March 31 deadline to have their DED status extended." The letter argued that, "forcing these individuals to leave the country would be devastating to communities where they have contributed to local economies and become integrated into civic life."
The current deadline comes as a result of the U.S. President's decision last year to terminate their DED status with a twelve-month wind-down period. The Congressional Leaders further asserted: "Given the dangers of deadly disease outbreak and violence in Liberia and its neighboring countries, it would be irresponsible to force these individuals and their families to return at this time,". They also highlighted the many positive contributions made by Liberians currently under DED protection to their local communities, and the U.S. economy.
The letter concluded: "We believe that it is in the strategic national security, foreign policy, and humanitarian interest of the United States for this population to remain here at this time."