When the civil war broke out in Liberia, many Liberians sought refuge in other countries and a good number of them emigrated to the USA.
Upon arrival they stayed as undocumented migrants till they were given a Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) status in 2007, which meant they had no means of applying to be American citizens.
Now their stories might change, and Minnesota’s Liberian community are elated. Liberians in the US under the DED program might get the chance to apply for permanent residency after the US Senate approved a path to citizenship.
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On Tuesday, the US Senate approved the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act. It includes an amendment that now allows Liberians under the DED program to be eligible candidates to apply for US citizenship.
If the House didn’t pass this new measure which President Trump has agreed to sign, Liberians on the temporary protection status were due for deportation after March 31, 2020, Herald Mail Media reports.
The instability of their current status is worrying for many Liberians. This mood resounds, especially in Minnesota, the country’s largest Liberian community.
“We are very happy,” said Erasmus Williams, chairman of the Liberian Immigration Coalition. “We are pleased. This will bring a lot of relief… It’s something that’s overdue.”
Trump felt Liberia is no longer experiencing civil war and threats of Ebola from the 2014 outbreak no longer exist, so it was time for them to return to their homeland. On March 31, 2019, the program was set to end, and Trump’s administration granted them another year of amnesty.
With so many years of uncertainty, “that’s why we are hoping and praying that one day we will be over this because it is a nightmare,” said Alice Cooke, a New Hope recipient of DED.
Many Liberians under the program living in US have settled well into their system. They are gainfully employed, have children who are US citizens. They have taken on mortgages, bought homes and even pay their taxes dutifully.
Barkon Greaves, a 53-year-old bus driver and a father to two American-born teenage sons, can sense a looming danger and asked whether their parents might someday be deported.
“To tell my kids I don’t know my fate, it’s scary,” Greaves said.
Another resident Cooke, 56, was separated from her children who are still in Liberia during her migration. Her children, who are adults now, have not been able to join her because she was a temporary resident.
Now considering recent events, she awaits a much-anticipated reunion as she hopes to begin her process of becoming an American citizen. That way her children can come to join her in the US.
Once the bill is signed into law, “we will praise our God,” said Cooke, outside a service at Ebenezer Community Church in Brooklyn Park over the weekend. “There will be a good celebration here.”