WASHINGTON, DC -- In an effort to help give a reprieve to Liberians living lawfully in the United States who are at risk of imminent deportation, U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) and U.S. Representative Donald M. Payne, Jr. (NJ-10) today led several of their colleagues in sending a letter to President Trump urging an extension of Deferred Enforced Departure (DED). Several thousand Liberians risk deportation if their temporary status is not extended beyond the March 31, 2019 deadline.
“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 50 members of Congress.
The West African nation of Liberia, which was founded as a colony in 1822 by freed slaves from the United States, was plagued by two brutal and deadly civil wars in 1989 and 1999-2003 and more recently by a major Ebola outbreak from 2014 to 2016. As part of its humanitarian response, the United States offered certain Liberians an opportunity to live, work, and pay taxes in the United States under the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and/or Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) systems, extended by both Republican and Democratic administrations beginning in 1991.
However, last year, President Trump terminated DED for Liberian beneficiaries, setting up a March 31, 2019 deadline.
“We believe that it is in the strategic national security, foreign policy, and humanitarian interest of the United States for this population to remain in the United States. Moreover, 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.
Earlier this year, Senator Reed introduced the Liberian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act (S. 456), which was also introduced in the House (H.R. 1169) by Congressman David Cicilline (RI-1), to allow eligible Liberians to apply for permanent residency and provide them with a pathway to citizenship.
Full text of the letter follows:
March 1, 2019
President Donald Trump
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, D.C. 20500
Dear Mr. President:
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.
In 1989, a seven-year civil war broke out in Liberia that would claim the lives of over 200,000 people and displace more than half of the Liberian population. During the conflict, food production ceased, large populations were internally displaced or fled the country as refugees, and Liberia’s infrastructure and economy were destroyed. A second civil war followed from 1999 to 2003. It ended with the departure from power of former President Charles Taylor, who is currently serving a 50-year prison sentence imposed by the Special Court of Sierra Leone after his conviction for war crimes. Subsequently, between 2014 and 2016, Liberia faced an extensive Ebola viral outbreak that killed an estimated nearly 5,000 of the over 10,000 persons who contracted the disease. The outbreak devastated the country’s fragile health care system, infrastructure, and economy while exacerbating social tensions.
As a result of these uniquely tragic developments, thousands of Liberians were forced from their homes. Many fled to neighboring countries, while some sought refuge in the United States. Attorney General Thornburgh first granted Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to Liberians present in the United States in 1991. Subsequent Administrations – citing a variety of compelling foreign policy issues, including challenges linked to ongoing post-Ebola and post-war recovery – have repeatedly extended TPS and/or DED for Liberians. However, on March 27, 2018, you announced the termination of DED for all Liberian beneficiaries. As a result, these persons will be at risk of deportation as of March 31, 2019.
Liberia has only just completed its first democratic transfer of power in decades, via a presidential election held at the end of 2017, and there are still serious concerns about the country’s ability to maintain peace and deliver essential services to its population. The United States must pursue all possible efforts to help ensure regional stability, foster Liberia’s continuing post-war recovery, and protect our country's substantial foreign policy interests, bilateral assistance, and peacekeeping investments. While few in number, an influx of Liberians from the United States could overburden the country’s limited infrastructure and reverse the nascent advances that the Liberian people and government have made. Deporting this population would also prevent its members from contributing to the crucial private sector investment and socio-economic assistance that they have long provided in the form of remittances to their relatives in Liberia.
Given these challenges, we believe that it is in the strategic national security, foreign policy, and humanitarian interest of the United States for this population to remain in the United States. Moreover, 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.
We appreciate your consideration of this request.