Thousands of Liberians at risk of losing Protection from Deportation by March 2019

New York – In as much as the US immigration conversation is focused on the construction of a border wall between Mexico and the United States to prevent illegal immigrants from entering the United States, those with Temporary Protected Status, little-known protection provided to other nationals including thousands of Liberians is on the brink of expiration.

This rarely-applied immigration protection is known as Deferred Enforced Departure, a designation made by the president to provide temporary relief from deportation and work authorization for nationals of another country when such is in the foreign policy interest of the United States to do so.

The most immediate protection for Liberians known as Liberia’s Deferred Enforced Departure is due to expire on March 31, 2019, forcing thousands of Liberians to be illegal in the United States. That means they will be ineligible for driver’s licenses, employment, and other immigration benefits.  In other words, if no action is taken by the Trump administration, many Liberians who have lawfully lived in the United States for decades will find themselves suddenly without protection from deportation as well.

Although the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services reports suggest that 745 Liberians have work permits under Deferred Enforced Departure, but other estimates and the Liberian community in the United States estimates that the numbers of Liberians benefiting from the Deferred Enforced Departure protection from deportation are in the thousands. This excludes Liberians who briefly had TPS due to the Ebola epidemic as these are a distinct group of more recent arrivals who are mostly not eligible for Deferred Enforced Departure.

Presidential chief of staff, Nathaniel McGill, left and Finance Minister Samuel Tweah right, both men considered as two key gatekeepers to the Liberian presidency have no clearly defined policy prescription to deal with Liberia’s governance problems and the growing economic crisis the nation and people face every day.   Both men are also unable to explain and account for the infusion of the  US$25 million dollars the government claims it used to beef up the country’s economy.

More and more Liberians are worried and gravely concerned about the adverse negative social, and economic impact mass deportation of Liberians will have on tiny West Africa.  This concern is also shared by several foreign policy experts on Liberia and Africa.

Despite tremendous natural resources and wealth, Liberia is one of the world’s poorest countries, with a formal employment rate of 15% based on tradition estimates.  Youth unemployment is estimated at 85%. In the country, children and women are disproportionately impacted by the lack of social services and basic needs.  Apart from mismanagement, Liberia’s main problem is corruption and money laundering by officials of government who, by and large, earn several thousands of dollars in a nation where 92 percent of the population lives on less than 1 dollar a day.  The country’s health and other vital sectors are maintained mainly and supported by donors including funds from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the U.S. Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), the European Union and others.

Already, several critical analysts in Washington, DC believe the current Liberian government is over-burdened with several problems amongst which include power-struggle within the ruling coalition, the inexperienced of certain officials who lead important and critical government agencies and the lack of understanding in policy development and program activities implementation.

Photo: Hundreds of Twin Cities Liberians in Minnesota gathered on the steps of the state Capitol for a rally in support of extending a federal deportation reprieve program for Liberian natives called Deferred Enforced Departure, or DED in 2018.

According to a new watchdog group, Africa Wealth Watch which runs an app encouraging people to report corruption and public theft, several Liberian officials have in recent months amassed wealth to construct buildings and buy properties and other assets at home and abroad.  The group maintained that more officials also preserve their families or children in the United States.  Banks in Nigeria, Ghana, Morocco, and Lebanon also serve as deposit vehicles and financial institutions for officials who ransacked monies from the country while hospitals in the country lack basic supplies and equipment to treat patients and schools nationwide remain in deplorable conditions.

Capital Building, the official home of the Liberian legislature. Its members are frequently accused by citizens and foreign business people as being compromised, corrupt, and functionally incapacitated in addition to receiving huge monthly wages and benefits, giving President Trump every reason to disregard consideration for extending the DED for Liberians in the United States. 

Since President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf left office, Liberia has not attracted any significant investment in the private sector.  Some of the known investors like Total Gas and others as well as the small foreign business community are all leaving or planning to withdraw from the country because of the lack of investors’ confidence, corruption and a culture of business unfriendliness.

David Kortie, a Liberian living in Colorado said how can thousands of Liberians return home at this critical time when millions of people in the country rely on their relatives in the U.S. to maintain their livelihood during high unemployment.  Like Kortie, the Liberian community is appealing to the U.S. government for consideration.

Liberia’s opposition leader and former Coca Cola senior executive, Alexander Cummings

In recent weeks, a known Liberian opposition leader and former presidential candidate for the Alternative National Congress (ANC), Alexander Cummings urged the ruling coalition government to stop stealing from the country.  Cummings, a former top corporate executive with Coca Cola global in Atlanta, Georgia, challenged the current Liberian administration to restore sanity in the governance of the nation. Meanwhile, the fate of thousands of Liberians remains in the hands of President Donald J. Trump.  So far, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security which oversees the U.S. Customs and Immigration Services has not demonstrated any intent at reconsidering extension of the DED for Liberians.  And the Liberian government as of today’s date has shown no concern in addressing the plight of its citizens in the United States.

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Michael Harrington

Michael Harrington is a researcher and senior contributing reporter with Globe Afrique Media.
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