Time is closing in on thousands of Liberians living in the United States of America and many may face deportation amidst the wind-down of a 12-month period of Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) issued by the US government in March 2018.
U.S. President Donald J. Trump, it can be recalled, in March 2018 through a memo, mandated the U.S. Homeland Security, an agency responsible to secure the U.S. from many threats, to commence a 12-month period of DED for Liberians.
Trump’s order that the program ends within 12 months, however, was premised upon the backdrop that “Liberia is no longer experiencing armed conflict and has made significant progress in restoring stability and democratic governance.”
In response to the US leader’s instruction, which was issued about two months following the inauguration of President George Manneh Weah, the Homeland Security office in a subsequent release disclosed that the DED wind-down period will start on April 1, 2018 and run through March 31, 2019.
As the result of the mandate from the U.S. President, the Department said, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), was further mandated to automatically extend Employment Authorization Documents (EADs) for Liberian DED beneficiaries who have EADs beginning March 31, 2018 with an expiration date of September 30, 2018.
The Department said that the beneficiaries will need to apply for Employment Authorization for the final six months of the extension of their DED status.
While the federal program that protects their status in the U.S. is expected to expire on March 31, this year, the NY City LENS reported on February 16 that as per data from the Department of Homeland Security, Liberia is the only country in the world protected by DED in the U.S.
It also reported about ongoing plans in New York City aimed at providing legal help and information to the affected population, while advocating for immigrants in the city at the federal level.
Many Liberians back home are receiving the news of the DED closure with dismay amidst the harsh economic condition which it may cause for some of them whose only source of livelihood is contingent upon monthly remittances from relatives who may be affected by the DED wind-down.
It can be recalled that in 2007, President George W. Bush directed that DED status for certain Liberians who were on Temporary Protective Status (TPS) that should have expired on September 30, 2007 be extended for 18 months.
Bush further directed the Secretary of Homeland Security at the time to issue procedures for granting work authorization to DED-covered Liberians.
Subsequently, in March 2009, President Barrack Obama also extended the privilege for 12 months, and eventually went on to extend DED for Liberians in March 2010, August 2011 and March 2013, before renewing it again for an additional 24 months in September 2016.