Liberians in Minnesota welcome extension, look for permanent fix

Liberian immigrant Isabella Wreh-Fofana speaks about the White House’s decision to extend the Deferred Enforced Departure program for Liberians at the State Capitol while Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison listens on Thursday. Tim Pugmire | MPR News

Isabella Wreh-Fofana said she screamed and started calling people after hearing the news that President Trump extended a deadline that will let her stay in Minnesota another year.

“I’m happy, but there’s still fear because it’s like every year, it’s the same thing,” said Wreh-Fofana, a nursing aid at United Hospital in St. Paul, who came to the United States from Liberia with her young son in 2002.

She compared the ongoing concerns about her immigration status to the uncertainty of living in a war zone. She’s especially worried when driving.

“When you see a police officer coming, you start to panic. It’s emotional stress, and it’s hard. I can’t put words to everything, but it’s very difficult,” she said.

Wreh-Fofana and others met with reporters at the Minnesota Capitol Thursday afternoon after Trump announced he would extend the Deferred Enforced Departure program, or DED, for another year.

The program was set to expire Sunday, and many Liberians were facing the threat of deportation. Trump originally announced the end of the program a year ago with a year to wind the program down. On Thursday, he said the wind-down period would last an additional 12 months, in part because the overall situation in West Africa remains concerning and reintegration will be complex.

Trump also noted the role of Congress, including efforts currently underway to address the issue. He said in his announcement that the extension will preserve the status quo while lawmakers consider remedial legislation.

The new expiration date is March 30, 2020.

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