Liberians Rally for Citizenship at State Capitol
Liberians, including many who call Brooklyn Center and Brooklyn Park home, rallied at the state Capitol on Friday. They are trying to call attention to an immigration policy called Deferred Enforced Departure (DED). Under the current March 31 deadline, Liberians living here on DED status could be deported.
People in the crowd called the issue “an emergency” and broke out in chants of “renew, renew.”
Advocates say Liberians who are living in the U.S. on DED status are faced with a tough choice. They must return to Liberia after 20-plus years in the U.S. or they can stay and become undocumented.
“People are scared and people are nervous,” said Wynfred Russell, who was born in Liberia. He now serves on the Brooklyn Park City Council. “We don’t want to destroy the fabric and the unity that exists within our communities.”
A history of uncertainty
When President Trump terminated DED by executive order last year, it was only the latest chapter in a long history of uncertainty for Liberians. Refugees from the country’s civil war fled to the U.S. more than twenty years ago. They were granted temporary status in 1991 and later that changed to DED status. This immigration action only applies to Liberians and it expires every few years.
The number of Liberians impacted by DED status remains uncertain. Some estimate it’s around four thousand people, with many living in Minnesota. Local lawmakers have issued proclamations of support for Liberians, even though it’s a federal issue.
“Liberians have been here for a long time, all of their kids are citizens, in our schools. They are part of our community,” said Abdullah Kiatamba, with African Immigrant Services. He helped organize the rally. “They are woven into this beautiful American experience. Just nothing to go back to in Liberia. They’re Americans, they are part of our communities, in the schools. They will be separated from their parents.”
Rep. Dean Phillips Sponsors Liberian Immigration Bill
U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips(D-Minnesota) was also at the rally. He recently announced that he is an original sponsor to the Liberian refugee immigration fairness act, H.R. 1169, aimed at providing legal status and a pathway to citizenship for qualifying Liberian refugees.
“Minnesota is home to the largest Liberian population in the United States, and I’m proud to represent the vast majority of them,” said Phillips. “They are our extraordinary neighbors, friends, care givers, and local business owners. Minnesota is their home. Uprooting them after decades of living and working in our community would be inhumane and would cause extraordinary disruption to our local economy. If pres. Trump does not reverse his executive order, it is incumbent upon congress to quickly ensure that our Liberian neighbors are protected from deportation.”
Community advocates say they will continue fighting for a resolution up until the March deadline.
DED status expires on March 31.