The Trump administration on Tuesday (March 27) announced that some 4,000 Liberian immigrants, including many who have lived in the United States for decades, will lose temporary legal status, forcing them to return to their former home within a year or face deportation.
The U.S. program, Deferred Enforced Departure (DED), which allows citizens of Liberia living in the U.S. to avoid deportation is set to expire this Saturday. In a memo issued Tuesday, the Trump administration says it will extend it for a year, after which Liberians under the program would be expected to return home.
Liberia is “no longer experiencing armed conflict” and has made “significant progress in restoring stability and democratic governance,” the memorandum explained.
“Liberia has also concluded reconstruction from prior conflicts, which has contributed significantly to an environment that is able to handle adequately the return of its nationals.”
Liberians have been eligible for DED since 1999. The program began under President Bill Clinton and was extended during the Bush and Obama administrations. It allows people from Liberia to live and work legally in the U.S. The extension and later deportation is part of a larger Trump immigration strategy to scale back immigrant protections, including those under the “Temporary Protected Status”.
According to the Department of Homeland Security, there are currently 839 Liberian citizens in the U.S. working under the program.
The one year period is part of a “wind-down” effort to provide an “orderly transition” and give Liberia’s government time to “reintegrate” citizens who have to return. During the 12-month window, beneficiaries are still allowed to live and work in the U.S.