March 31, 2019 would have been the day that the legal status of thousands of Liberians living in the United States would end following the termination of the Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) programme by the Trump administration.
After a series of protests and petitions from Members of Congress and civil society groups urging President Donald Trump to reinstate the programme, the U.S. government has extended its expiration deadline by another 12 months.
The DED was terminated two years ago by the Trump administration which extended it for another year explaining that Liberia is “no longer experiencing armed conflict” and has made “significant progress in restoring stability and democratic governance.”
“Liberia has also concluded reconstruction from prior conflicts, which has contributed significantly to an environment that is able to handle adequately the return of its nationals,” the U.S. government said last year giving the Liberian government time to “reintegrate” its citizens.
A few weeks to the expiration date, 50 Members of Congress led by U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) and U.S. Representative Donald M. Payne, Jr. (NJ-10) sent a letter to President Trump urging him to reinstate the programme.
“We write to strongly urge you to reinstate Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) for Liberians. We ask that you take this action immediately in order to prevent anxiety and legal uncertainty within our Liberian-American communities,” stated the letter signed by the 50 representatives.
“For more than a quarter of a century the United States has been home to law-abiding and taxpaying Liberians. They have worked hard, played by the rules, and submitted to rigorous vetting. Uprooting them now would be cruel and harmful to them, their families, and employers. We therefore respectfully and urgently request that you reinstate DED for Liberians,” the letter concluded.
Liberians have been eligible for the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and DED since 1991 as part of the United States’ humanitarian response to Liberia which has been plagued by two brutal and deadly civil wars in 1989 and 1999. More recently, the country was hit by a major Ebola outbreak.
The opportunity allowed some Liberians to live, work, and pay taxes in the country. The programme was extended under President Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama.
In 2018, the Department of Homeland Security stated that there were 839 Liberian citizens in the U.S. working under the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) programmes.
Earlier this year, Senator Reed introduced the Liberian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act (S. 456), which was also introduced by Congressman David Cicilline (RI-1), to allow eligible Liberians to apply for permanent residency and provide them with a pathway to citizenship.
Liberia was founded in West Africa as a colony in 1822 by freed African-American slaves. The country has since 1864 established diplomatic relations with the United States after it declared independence from the American Colonization Society which facilitated the resettlement.