Liberians living in America since a devastating civil war that took 250,000 lives are now in the crosshairs of the current Trump administration which is threatening to lift their protected status and deport them.
Some five thousand people nationally are protected from deportation under the Deferred Enforced Departure or DED program which has been in effect since 1991. But the total number of Liberians in the U.S. is estimated at 100,000. The program expires on Mar. 31. Only the President can extend the program.
Minnesota is home to what may be the nation’s largest Liberian population, possibly 30,000 or more. Only about 4,000 are under DED, said Abdullah Kiatamba, a Liberian community leader and executive director of the nonprofit African Immigrant Services, “but every Liberian in Minnesota is connected to one of those 4,000.”
The Minneapolis Star Tribune has weighed in, writing in a recent piece headlined “Liberians Have Earned the Right to Stay in the U.S.”
Protected status was renewed for 27 years because conditions didn’t improve, the editors wrote, adding “Life happened in that time.”
“Those ‘temporary’ refugees have built careers, homes, families, all legal under their immigration status. They are business owners, teachers, nurses. Many work in nursing homes, where the labor shortage is acute. Some have grown old here, (and are) no longer able to start over.
“To abruptly return them to one of the poorest spots in the world, splitting up families and creating chaos in their communities, would be monstrous. This is not only regrettable, the editors argued, “it is cruel.”
Further, Liberia is unable to absorb all the Liberians living in the U.S., maintained Vamba S. Fofana, president of the Union of Liberian Associations in America. The country has barely recovered from the Ebola epidemic which left the health care systems in shambles.
Unlike Africans who might return to England or France, for Liberians “the U.S. is the only place we can go,” Fofana said.
Meanwhile, the Liberian Consul General and the Liberian Business Association appear to be preparing for the unthinkable. According to the online news site FrontPageAfrica, behind the scenes efforts are underway to prepare Liberians to return home where “they will be received with open arms.”
But that outcome was dismissed by the Minnesota paper. “Who benefits when thriving businesses are shuttered, needed jobs left empty and American-born children possibly left without their parents?”
The Liberian government has not yet commented as to what plans it has to prepare for Liberians who may be returning home.