Africa

Liberian Refugees In U.S. Worried About Possible End To TPS Program Next March

Philadelphia, PA USA

Liberian beneficiaries of Deferred Enforced Departure also known as DED in the United States may have reason to be apprehensive about their own future given the decision of the Trump Administration to end Temporary Protective Status (TPS) for thousands of citizens from Central America and Haiti.

It can be recalled that the current TPS designation for Liberians was extended by President Barack Obama but now expires on March 18, 2017.

In a memorandum issued on September 16, 2016 to then Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, President Obama directed him “to extend for an additional 18 months the deferred enforced departure (DED) of certain Liberians and to provide for work authorization during that period.”

Flag of Liberia

Flag of Liberia

According to the Memorandum, “Pursuant to his constitutional authority to conduct the foreign relations of the United States, President Obama has determined that there are compelling foreign policy reasons to again extend Deferred Enforced Departure (“DED”) to Liberian nationals who are currently residing in the United States under the existing grant of DED. The President accordingly directed that Liberian nationals (and eligible persons without nationality who last resided in Liberia) who are physically present in the United States, have continuously resided in the United States since October 1, 2002, and who remain eligible for DED through September 30, 2016, be provided DED for an additional 18-month period. See Presidential Memorandum—Deferred Enforced Departure for Liberians, September 28, 2016 (“Presidential Memorandum”).

Note that only individuals who held Temporary Protected Status (TPS) on September 30, 2007, the date that a former TPS designation of Liberia terminated, are eligible for DED, provided they have continued to meet all other eligibility criteria established by the President. The President also directed the Secretary to implement the necessary steps to authorize employment authorization for eligible Liberians for 18 months, from October 1, 2016 through March 31, 2018.

Department of Homeland Security

Department of Homeland Security

According to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), “Temporary Protected Status (TPS) is a provisional immigration status granted to eligible nationals of designated countries suffering the effects of an ongoing armed conflict, environmental disaster, or other extraordinary and temporary conditions. During the period for which the Secretary of Homeland Security has designated a country under the TPS program, beneficiaries are not required to leave the United States and may obtain employment authorization.

TPS does not lead to permanent resident status, however, when the Secretary terminates a country’s designation, the alien will return to the status he/she had prior to TPS or to any other status he/she may have obtained while registered for TPS.”

In the case of Liberia, since 1991 the U.S. granted TPS to thousands of Liberians citizens who fled the brutal civil war.

Liberians in the U.S. benefitted from a series of extensions to their initial TPS designation until expiration on September 28, 1999 based on a determination of the then U.S. Attorney General the late Janet Reno who stated that “Based upon a more recent review of conditions within Liberia by the Departments of Justice and State, the Attorney General finds that conditions no longer support a TPS designation. A Department of State memorandum concerning Liberia states that “[t]he divisive civil war in Liberia which began in 1990 ended with the Abuja Peace Accords in 1996. Since 1997, the country in general has not experienced ongoing armed conflict. In September 1998, violence erupted suddenly in Monrovia. * * * Since then, however, no further general conflict has occurred.” The memorandum also states that “Although conditions in Liberia remain difficult, the overall situation is not sufficiently adverse to prevent most Liberian nationals in the U.S. from returning to Liberia in safety.” It concludes, “The Department of State finds that sufficient grounds to recommend a further extension of TPS for Liberia do not exist. We therefore recommend that TPS for Liberia be terminated on its current expiration date of September 28, 1999.”  

Following the expiration of TPS designation for Liberians, then President Bill Clinton, made the determination that for “foreign policy reasons, protection from removal should be extended for a year after that date.” Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) status was extended to Liberians and subsequently extended. The last extension was issued in September, 2016 by President Obama and expires in March, 2018.

According to the DHS, DED is similar to TPS in that it allows aliens of a particular nationality to remain and work in the United States without the threat of deportation. The President issues a DED directive based on his constitutional authority related to foreign policy, whereas the Attorney General has statutory authority to designate a country for TPS.

USCIS

US Custom and Immigration Service – USCIS

Apprehension amongst Liberian DED beneficiaries was heightened late on Friday, November 3, when the Washington Post reported that on last Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on last Tuesday, dispatched a a letter to acting DHS Secretary Elaine Duke informing her that for over 300,00 nationals of Central America and Haiti, conditions which had been used to justify their Temporary Protective Status in the U.S. no longer existed to warrant the continuation of this designation and protection.

Many of the Central American and Haitian migrants, in addition to their TPS status were allowed to live and work in the U.S.

Reports say scores of Central American and Haitian nationals, in anticipation of the revocation of their TPS status have been making their way north through unofficial border crossings to seek sanctuary in Canada.

Liberia

Map of Liberia

Liberian activists and some members of the U.S. Congress have been lobbying the new Trump Administration to continue the extension of DED designation upon expiration in March of next year. However, the Trump Administration has shown no inclination to further extension and protection. Any cue from the new US government can be found in its latest decision to terminate protection of Central American and Haitian nationals when protections end early next year. Another indication of the leaning of the U.S. Government was its decision to terminate the 2014 – 2016 Ebola-related TPS designation in May of this year for some nationals of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

Many Liberians on DED have put down roots, held long term jobs, purchased homes and businesses and have children and grand children who are American citizens. If DED status is revoked for these Liberian nationals, individuals with no other lawful immigration status on March 19, 2018, will no longer be protected from removal or eligible for employment authorization in the U.S.

By Emmanuel Abalo

West African Journal Magazine