The Trump administration on Tuesday (March 27) announced that some 4,000 Liberian immigrants, including many who have lived in the United States for decades, will lose temporary legal status, forcing them to return to their former home within a year or face deportation.
Citing improved conditions in Liberia, which experienced two civil wars in the 1990s, the Trump administration issued a memorandum ending Deferred Enforced Departure (DED), which has allowed certain Liberians to remain the country legally without fear of deportation since 1999.
Originally authorized by President Bill Clinton, DED for Liberians was extended every 18 months by Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. That protection, the White House announced on Tuesday, ends on March 31, 2019.
"I find that conditions in Liberia no longer warrant a further extension of DED, but that the foreign policy interests of the United States warrant affording an orderly transition (“wind-down”) period to Liberian DED beneficiaries," reads the memorandum signed by Trump, which adds the administration’s stance that a 12-month wind down period will give the Liberian government ample time to reintegrate its returning citizens.
The announcement follows similar moves against Salvadoran and Haitian immigrants. In November, Trump decided that 50,000 Haitians living in the U.S. since 2010, and who have an estimated 27,000 U.S.-born children, would lose their Temporary Protected Status (TPS), a type of humanitarian aid. In January, Trump ended TPS for some 200,000 Salvadoran immigrants living in the U.S. since 2001, when twin earthquakes left hundreds of thousands homeless. Both groups were given 18 months to leave the country or find another form of legal immigration status.
The decision on Salvadoran immigrants came days before Trump described immigrants from El Salvador, Haiti and some African nations as coming from "shithole countries" during an Oval Office meeting with lawmakers discussing a potential immigration deal.
In February, a group of Haitian and Salvadoran immigrants sued the Trump administration over its TPS decision, arguing that his decision to end protection from deportation for hundreds of thousands of immigrants was racially motivated.
Immigration activists had compelled the administration to extend deportation protections for Liberians ahead of yesterday’s announcement. In a conference call with reporters on Monday, several Liberian immigrants urged Trump to extend DED.
"I have been a resident of Staten Island, New York, for the past 18 years. I have worked in human resources for the fire department and in the voter registration office," said DED holder Rose Knuckles Bull. "It would be unfair to force us to return to Liberia without anything and start all over again at this age."
Earlier this month, members of Congress from Minnesota, home to roughly 30,000 Liberian immigrants, wrote a letter to Trump that mirrored pleas from immigrants. After Trump’s decision on Tuesday, they vowed to continue fighting for an extension of DED protections.
"These are hard-working people who came to the U.S. legally, have remained here legally, and play a major role in Minnesota’s economy, in particular helping to staff our hospitals and nursing homes," Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) said in a statement. "We have a year before the status expires and during that time I will do everything to find a solution for these families."