Liberians in the U.S. Fate Uncertain as Chances of Deportation Get High


Washington  – Handing down his ruling  Tuesday, Judge Timothy S. Hillman of the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, concluded that the courts do not have the power to force the President of the United States to maintain immigration protections for Liberian nationals even if his decision to end those protections was motivated by racism, a federal judge in Massachusetts ruled.

Report by Rodney D. Sieh, [email protected]

In October, lawyers for Liberians likely to be affected by the end of the DED argued in a lawsuit that President Trump’s decision to end the program was rooted in racism and is therefore unconstitutional. However, a lawyer for the US government countered that the DED program exists at the president’s discretion and that humanitarian circumstances in Liberia have improved to the point where DED protections are no longer necessary.

On Tuesday, Judge Hillman agreed, ruling: “The authority to grant deferred enforced departure “comes from the executive branch’s constitutional power to conduct foreign affairs, and ‘the conduct of foreign affairs’ is a realm entrusted to the President.”

That decision and ruling is the subject of immense debate amongst Liberians on various social media platforms unsure what the ruling will do for their status in the United States of America.

In 2007, President George W. Bush directed that Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) be provided for 18 months to certain Liberians in the United States whose Temporary Protected Status (TPS) was expiring on Sept. 30, 2007. President Bush further directed the Secretary of Homeland Security to issue procedures for granting work authorization to DED-covered Liberians. DED continued to be extended for eligible Liberians since that initial period until March 31, 2018, when DED was terminated but given a year-long wind-down period that was set to expire on March 31, 2019.

For many Liberians on DED, whose status remain in jeopardy, the pathway to remaining in the United States became complicated this week after Judge Timothy S. Hillman of the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, ruled against lawyers representing Liberians on DED who filed a suit against President Trump. The judge concluded that the courts do not have the power to force the president to maintain immigration protections for Liberian nationals even if his decision to end those protections was motivated by racism. The million-dollar question remains, who will Liberians turn to for salvation after the current deadline expires on March 31, 2020. A President renowned for sticking it to his perceived enemies, detractors and so-called betrayers holds the fate of Liberians in his hands.

On March 28, 2019, President Trump, after consulting relevant executive branch agencies, issued a memorandum directing Secretary Nielsen to extend the DED wind-down period for an additional 12 months, through March 30, 2020, and to provide for continued work authorization during such time.

Most Liberians expected to be affected by the ruling, arrived in the US before or during Liberia’s civil wars, from 1989 to 2003, killing nearly 250,000 people.  As of March 31, 2020, most of them who never regularized their status, but have been living legally in the United States for decades, will lose their legal status due to the Trump administration’s termination of a program that granted them temporary reprieves from deportation.

For many, whose status remains in jeopardy, the pathway to remaining in the US has been complicated by the ruling, even has those at the frontline of the effort express concerns while some say they were initially apprehensive about going ahead with a lawsuit against a sitting president, who Liberians will eventually turn to for salvation after the current deadline expires on March 31, 2020.  “Although our team didn’t support this lawsuit and felt the timing wasn’t strategic, the result is a still blow to those who are impacted by the ruling”, says Abdullah Kiatamba, the Executive Director of the African Immigrant Services (AIS) & Chair of the National DED campaign under the Union Liberian Association in the Americas (ULAA). “After series of consultations, we had determined from the very onset that supporting the lawsuit wasn’t in the best interest of the DED Campaign”.

Many Liberians are not holding back their disappointment in the ruling – or the decision to sue President Trump. 

‘Trump Likes to be a Winner’

Robert Glede Garguah Jr., in a Facebook post shortly after the ruling, Tuesday asked: “Who’s idea was it to sue the Trump administration? Where did these attorneys go to school? One minute you’re appealing for extension, the next you’re suing? And you expect Trump to sign an extension after the current one expires March 2020? A diplomatic approach was the best option.”

Cooper Kweme agrees, stating: “It’s like biting the hand that feeds you. DED is a privilege, not a right.”

Alvin Sehkar adds: “I’m not a lawyer but the basis of the lawsuit have me scratching my head.” 

Kiatamba says he didn’t feel the move was strategic on the part of those behind the lawsuit against President Trump.

For many others, the court’s decision spells danger for Liberians relying on President Trump’s mercy for survival. “And they know the man doesn’t forgive and he always remembers,” Robert BlackDiamond chimed in.

Charles Russel succinctly summed it all up. “Liberians are an interesting group of people. Hope they understand Trump likes to be the winner.”

If President Trump’s recent history with his perceived enemies and critics is anything to go by, those whose fate now hang in the balance, have serious reasons to fear. 

A Trail of Vengeance

President Trump has never forgiven his predecessor Barack Obama, who roasted him at his final White House Correspondent dinner in 2011 over among other things, his  tweeting out insults to German Chancellor Angela Merkel and his inexperience foreign policy, saying, “There’s one area where Donald’s experience could be invaluable, and that’s closing Guantanamo. Because Trump knows a thing or two about running waterfront properties into the ground.”

When Omarosa Manigault Newman, one of his top advisors was fired by White House chief of staff John Kelly in August 2018, she had secretly recorded a phone conversation with the President which made the rounds in the media.

The saga drew a wedge between Trump and one previously considered one of his closest advisors, and the President fired back, declaring in a Twitter post, “Wacky Omarosa, who got fired 3 times on the Apprentice, now got fired for the last time. She never made it, never will. She begged me for a job, tears in her eyes, I said Ok. People in the White House hated her. She was vicious, but not smart. I would rarely see her but heard….,” he tweeted.

The President’s former Chief of Staff became his latest victim when revealed a few days ago while speaking at the Washington Examiner’s Sea Island Summit, that he offered the president a piece of advice before leaving the job.

 “I said, ‘Whatever you do’—and we were still in the process of trying to find someone to take my place—I said, ‘Whatever you do, don’t hire a yes-man, someone who won’t tell you the truth. Don’t do that. Because if you do, I believe you will be impeached,’” Kelly said.

The former Chief of Staff added: “It pains me to see what’s going on, because I believe if I was still there, or someone like me was there, he would not be kind of all over the place.”

President Trump fired back, disputing that former White House chief of staff, declaring: “John Kelly never said that, he never said anything like that. If he would have said that I would have thrown him out of the office. He just wants to come back into the action like everybody else does.”

At Trump’s Mercy

Liberians, like many around the world have been privy to Mr. Trump’s many tweets going after his enemies, a major reason why some are certain that those relying on Mr. Trump’s mercy to remain in America are hanging on a tread.

With reference to the lawsuit lost by Liberians, Benedictus Avery posted Wednesday: “This was a frivolous case, DED is delayed early deportation. It can be renewed our expired. You can’t sue the government to renew DED. You can only appeal to them to renew it. It is a waste of money hiring a lawyer to pursue such case.”