ALJA Commends President Trump and US Congress for Granting Liberians Permanent Status

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Minneapolis, Minnesota – The Association of Liberian Journalists in the Americas (ALJA) is commending  President Donald Trump and the US Congress for the passage and subsequent signing into law of the “National Defense Authorization Acts (NDAA)” which provides a pathway to permanent immigration status for many Liberians in the US through a provision known as the “Liberian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act”.

The provision covers thousands of Liberians, who are current recipients of the Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) immigration benefit; and have been physically present in the United States since November 20, 2014 and have not left the US for more than 180 days during that period.

The bill was approved by the US Senate on Tuesday, December 17, 2019, by a vote of 86-6 after prior passage in the US House of Representatives by a unanimous vote of 377-48. President Trump signed the bill into law on Friday, December 20th.

The Association in a press release issued on December 23, 2019, says it was ecstatic that after decades of uncertainty about their immigration status which kept many in constant fear and limbo, the provision would afford Liberian beneficiaries’ permanent legal status with a pathway to citizenship and its accompanying benefits. ALJA says the passage of the bill represents a monumental victory in the fight for legal status for Liberians. 

ALJA says it is pleased that Liberians covered under the bill, many of whom have resided in the United States for more than 20 years, are very well integrated in their local communities, have established families, bought homes and are making significant contributions to different aspects of the American society will continue to do so without the fear of deportation.

Meanwhile, ALJA has extolled the efforts of a number of prominent US Senators including Jack Reed of Rhode Island, who worked tirelessly for the passage of the bill. Senator Reed originally introduced the Bill in 1999. His efforts were supported by Senators, Tina Smith and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Dick Durbin of Illinois, and Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin of Maryland. Members of the US House of Representatives who influenced the passage of the bill were Ilhan Omar and Dean Phillips of Minnesota and Jim Langevin of Rhode Island, among others. 

Thousands of Liberian DED beneficiaries would have faced the stark choice of leaving the United States or becoming undocumented when the temporary immigration benefit expires on March 31, 2020. As a result of the ended Liberian civil crisis, hundreds of Liberians in the United States were granted Temporary Protected Status (TPS) in 1991 by then US President George W. Bush. In 2007, the TPS designation was changed to DED, which ensures that a decision to grant DED comes directly from the US President as opposed to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Liberia and the United States have a long-standing historical tie which dates back as far as 1822 when free slaves from the US founded the nation as a colony in West Africa. 

At the same time, ALJA is commending US based Liberian advocacy groups, community organizations and religious leaders that worked in unison with the leadership of the Union of Liberian Associations in the Americas (ULAA) for the passage of the bill.

ALJA underscored the groups and ULAA’s sustained lobbying efforts with members of the US Congress as well as local authorities which has culminated into the biggest legislative victory for Liberians in the United States. ALJA says the immigration victory signals that when Liberian organizations work in unison, they stand to make gains on issues that will benefit their compatriots.

ALJA is a conglomeration of current and retired Liberian journalists residing in the Americas. It is a 501c (3) non-profit organization. The Association was founded in 1998 with the objectives of fostering companionship amongst its members and their American counterparts. In addition, ALJA is committed to advancing press freedom through media capacity building and the fostering of good governance in Liberia through media advocacy

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