Liberian nationals and advocacy groups are suing President Donald Trump over the termination of the Deferred Enforced Departure program.
Written By: Wren Murphy |
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison and 16 other attorneys general filed an amicus brief to support the preservation of the Deferred Enforced Departure program for Liberians after the federal government motioned to dismiss a lawsuit filed by members of the Liberian community.
“I co-led this coalition today to defend Liberians with DED because like all Minnesotans, they deserve to live with safety, dignity and respect,” Ellison said in a statement issued earlier this month. “Liberians in Minnesota are woven into the fabric of our communities … Many Liberians have known no other country in their lives than America, and their children are American citizens.”
African Communities Together, Undocublack Network and several individuals sued President Donald Trump to prevent him from terminating the DED program, which Trump ended on March 31, 2018. The program was given a wind-down period of one year, which was later extended to two years. Liberians protected under the DED program will be required to leave the United States by March 30, 2020.
Between 1,000 and 3,600 are DED recipients in the United States, according to undated information from the Department of Homeland Security.
DED is a program that provides temporary legal status and employment authorization for Liberians, whose Temporary Protected Status expired on Sept. 30, 2007. After President George W. Bush directed the program be provided to Liberians in 2007, the program was extended every 18 months under former President Barack Obama’s administration. The program did not offer a path to citizenship, even though Liberians in the program were initially granted DED in 1999 and later TPS in 2002 and have been residing in the U.S. continuously since then.
The program was meant to provide legal status for Liberians who were fleeing political instability and violence, including the First and Second Liberian Civil Wars that left 8% of the population dead, in the late 20th century and early 2000s. In 2014, Liberia suffered from an Ebola outbreak that left thousands dead. According to the World Bank’s 2016 data, more than 40% of the population lives below the international poverty line, which means people that live on $1.90 a day or less.
Those that do not leave the U.S. before the deadline are at risk of being deported.
Though Trump extended the wind-down period to 2020, the brief stated that the possible resulting family separations and economic damages mean that the program should be extended and not terminated in 2020.
The attorneys general’s brief said that the decision to terminate DED will inflict harm on states and individual Liberian nationals. According to the brief, many Liberians work in health care and education, leaving those institutions at risk of being understaffed. Liberians will face problems when they return to their home country, as well. Many Liberian nationals have lived in the U.S. for two decades. During this period, DED-protected individuals have found jobs and positions in their communities and have started families.
“Many Liberian immigrants are parents of U.S. citizens and DED holders wonder how they would make ends meet if forced to return to Liberia after decades in the United States,” the brief said.
The lawsuit and brief also stated that the U.S. citizen children of Liberians protected under DED may face consequences from the end of the program. Many of these children have grown up in the U.S. and have not ever traveled to Liberia.
“Studies show that fears about family members’ deportations can cause children to experience serious mental health problems, including depression, anxiety, self-harm and regression,” the brief said. “The children of DED holders will not only lose their economic security and even the comfort and stability of living in homes with their parents, but also may become subject to child protective services and ultimately placed in foster homes … Not only will this be traumatic and harmful to the children, but it will needlessly cost states valuable resources for children who have been abused or neglected.”