Boston, Massachusetts – The Free Liberia Movement, Universal Human Rights International, and Lawyers from the Harvard University Law School are calling on the Biden-Harris Administration to immediately end decades of “cruel, inhumane, dehumanizing denial of humanitarian assistance and work permits by immediately re-designating Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) and extending protection to all 10,000 Liberians across the United States of America.”
But the groups said, while this action is welcomed and demonstrates his compassion and love for humanity, the Biden-Harris reprieve only renewed protection-benefiting a few Liberians already protected by DED, thus leaving thousands of Liberian Refugees unprotected, who have been excluded from TPS/DED since October 2002, for no justifiable reasons.
Excerpt of President Biden’s Executive order: “I have also determined that any Liberian national, or person without nationality who last habitually resided in Liberia, who is present in the United States and who was under a grant of DED as of January 10, 2021, should have continued employment authorization through June 30, 2022.”
It continues: “The Secretary of Homeland Security shall promptly direct the appropriate officials to make a provision, by means of notice published in the Federal Register, for immediate allowance of employment authorization for those Liberians who held appropriate DED-related employment authorization documents as of January 10, 2021.”
However The Free Liberia Movement, Universal Human Rights International, and Lawyers from the Harvard University Law School in a joint statement said: “While we welcome President Biden’s compassion, we want to make it clear that there are thousands of Liberian Refugees who were never granted TPS/DED, dating as far back as 2002, for no justifiable reasons. We are in the middle of the winter of 2021. Covid-19 Pandemic has claimed 400,000 lives of the most vulnerable in America. There are thousands of Liberians living across America since October 2002 without DED/TPS and work permits, the Liberian Refugee Fairness Act.”
In the statement, they further noted that consistent with the “equal protection” clause of the 14th Amendment of the US Constitution, Section 245(i) of the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act, they are calling on President Biden to right decades of wrong against Liberians by re-designating TPS/DED to all Liberians physically present in the United States as of the signing of the Memo on January 20, 2021, adding this will allow Liberian refugee mothers airlifted by US Marines during Operation Shining Express ordered by President George Bush on June 12, 2003 to be covered since they have never been covered by TPS/DED.
Also consistent with Section 245(i), which exempts refugees from paying filing fees for green cards, the groups called for efforts to make the Liberian Fairness Act fair by issuing a blanket waiver of fees for Liberian Refugees, noting that many have been denied TPS/DED for decades, for no justifiable reasons.
They also called for an urgent establishment of a Truth & Reconciliation Commission for the United States to combat the lies that undermine national unity; initiate a special immigration status to compensate for systemic discrimination against Liberians.
The groups also made a repeated call on the United States Government to launch an investigation into systemic discrimination against Liberians in visa issuance and immigration, beginning with the declassification of the classified cable of 1990 that ordered U.S. Embassy staff in Monrovia to grant visas to foreigners but deny visas to Liberians.
“As a result, the U.S Embassy has earned millions of dollars from non-refundable visa fees illegally collected from Liberians since 1990. We request a refund with interest and admission of Liberia into the US Visa Waiver Program,” the groups demanded.
Meanwhile, as part of the their advocacy, the groups have launched a sustained daily virtual campaign via Zoom with Harvard University Law School Legal Clinic Lawyers beginning February 7, 2021 from 11:30 GMT to 13:30 GMT with meeting ID: 2430960871.
In the early 1990s, thousands of Liberians fled the violence of the civil war to the United States. In 1991 Liberians were granted Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and later Deferred Enforced Departure (DED).
However, since the escalation of the second civil war in October 2002, all Liberians who fled to the United States have never been granted TPS or DED because TPS and DED were only extended for those already covered but not re-designated to cover newly arriving Liberian Refugees who came on or after October 2002.
The group, through its lead advocate, Rev. Torli Krua, founder of the Universal Human Rights International said Liberians that being affected include mothers of young American citizens airlifted by US Marines during Operation Shining Express ordered by President George Bush in June of 2003. Due to hardship, he says refugee mothers denied access to humanitarian assistance and work permits under the Liberian TPS/DED cannot sustain day to day provision of food and shelter due to their inability to work to supply their needs.
But Krua said in contrast, the 102nd (1991-1992) Congress passed a law that allowed 52,968 Chinese nationals to be granted DED after the Tiananmen Square incident to adjust to permanent residency status. He also noted that the 105th, Congress (1997-1998) passed legislation known as NACARA and under this law, 150,000 Nicaraguans, 5,000 Cubans, 200,000 El Salvadorans, and 50,000 Guatemalans are able to adjust to permanent residency status.
He is contending that Liberia began as an American Colony. On March 3, 1819, Congress appropriated $100,000.00 to “provide logistics for the establishment of a colony in Africa” and authorized the US Navy intervention in creating Liberia. Through his painstaking research on U.S. – Liberia relationship, he gathered that ten Liberian presidents were born and educated in the United States.
“Liberia deserves special consideration because of the history of American Colonization and the settlement of free men of color from the United States in Liberia and the contributions Liberia continues to make to the United States,” he wrote.
He furthered: “Article 1 of the Liberian Constitution of 1824 granted privileges to Liberians that we have not enjoyed. “All persons born within the limits of the territory held by the American Colonization Society, in Liberia, in Africa, or removing there to reside, shall be free and entitled to all the privileges, as are enjoyed by the citizens of the United States.”