Liberians React to Decision Ending Immigration Protections
Chaos and confusion has temporarily ended for Liberians impacted by an immigration policy known as Deferred Enforced Departure.
A decision from Washington Tuesday ends DED, but allows time for lawmakers and those impacted to take the next step.
Brooklyn Park and Brooklyn Center have some of the largest populations of Liberians living in Minnesota. It’s estimated about 3,000 to 5,000 Liberians are impacted by DED. The policy has been in place since 2007. The program allows Liberians to live and work in the United States, but it was about to end on March 31st.
Abdullah Kiatamba is the Executive Director of African Immigrant Services. He’s been on the forefront of the issue.
“Their kids are citizens, some are Marines, soldiers, pilots, engineers, and doctors, in these communities,” said Kiatamba.
For weeks, Liberians have vigorously voiced their opinions, met with lawmakers, and worked to get the immigration policy extended. But the Trump Administration ended the policy while allowing a 12 month wind down period.
“This is something that allows us to work harder for permanent residency status,” said Kiatamba. “It buys us some time. It provides some breathing room.”
Congressman Erik Paulsen has been a strong advocate for Minnesota’s Liberian community. He says he’s relieved Liberians no longer face imminent deportation. He’s also co-author of a bill aimed at giving Liberians permanent legal status.
“They’ve made homes here, they’ve built lives here, they’ve become part of the fabric of our community. So, we shouldn’t be tearing families apart, we should be rewarding that,” said Paulsen.
State Senators Chris Eaton and John Hoffman say they are sorely disappointed in the President’s decision to end DED. They went on to say that the political climate in Liberia is fragile and those who put their roots down in Minnesota should be able to stay.
There are some legal avenues to explore. One immigration attorney says some may qualify for something called “cancellation of removal.”
“After you’ve been here after a process of 10 years, and you can show you’re a person of good moral character, and you can show that your removal will cause extreme or unusual hardship to U.S. citizen children, or a spouse, you get to stay,” said attorney Herbert Igbanugo.
Meanwhile, folks in the Liberian community vow to continue to fight for a pathway to citizenship.
“We’re going to be launching a bigger campaign, a larger campaign, more intense campaign, to make this work,” said Kiatamba.