Written by: Taher Kameli, Esq.
It is not often that we associate President Trump with immigration rights. However, yesterday, the President did act in favor of 1 group of immigrants. President Trump extended the rights of Liberian immigrants who had protected Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) status to stay in the United States for an additional 1 year.
Because of a civil war in Liberia, Liberian immigrants were first granted temporary protected status to live and work in the United States without deportation by President George H.W. Bush in 1991. In 1999, when this temporary protected status ended, President Clinton granted DED status to Liberian immigrants to continue their protection from deportation. They have continued to receive either temporary protected status or DED status under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama (including based on a second civil war in Liberia and the outbreak of the Ebola virus in West Africa).
In March, 2018, President Trump had announced the termination of DED status for these Liberian immigrants on March 31, 2019. However, President Trump has apparently changed his mind and extended DED status for an additional 1 year. In a memorandum, President Trump stated, “Upon further reflection and review, I have decided that it is in the foreign policy interest of the United States to extend the wind-down period for an additional 12 months, through March 30, 2020. . . . The reintegration of DED beneficiaries into Liberian civil and political life will be a complex task, and an unsuccessful transition could strain United States-Liberian relations and undermine Liberia’s post-civil war strides toward democracy and political stability”.
The Trump administration was sued earlier this month in Federal court in Massachusetts by a group of Liberian immigrants with DED status and immigration advocacy groups to prevent the termination of DED status for Liberian immigrants. This lawsuit will continue, notwithstanding President Trump’s decision to extend DED status for an additional 1 year.
Amaha Kassa, executive director of African Communities Together, which joined the lawsuit, said, “We’re mindful that this is only a one-year extension of the termination – not a reversal”.
Rhode Island Senator Jack Reed, who has been leading efforts for years to pass a bill to provide legal status and a pathway to citizenship for qualifying Liberians in the United States, said, “In the long-term, we still need a solution that provides certainty for this population, allowing them to get on a pathway to full citizenship. It is time for Congress to act on legislation that gives Liberians an opportunity to remain here permanently”.
While Senator Reed’s statement is encouraging, given Congress’ track record in failing to address comprehensive immigration reform, it is difficult to be optimistic that legislative relief for Liberian immigrants can be achieved. Instead, it is the lawsuit in Federal court in Massachusetts that may offer Liberian immigrants their best chance to avoid the termination of their DED status in 1 year. Similarly, Kameli Law has many success stories of using litigation to protect and advance immigrant rights. If you are an immigrant, please contact the Kameli Law, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 312-233-1000, for “litigation relief” if the government is attacking any of your rights.