MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A deadline is quickly approaching that could send thousands of Liberians living in Minnesota back to west Africa. A deportation protection program expires this Saturday.
Hundreds of Liberian immigrants held a rally Monday at the State Capitol. Organizers say they have reached out to members of Congress to urge President Trump to extend Deferred Enforced Departure (DED).
About 30,000 Liberian immigrants live in Minnesota. The deportation reprieve program affects about 4,000 of them who arrived in the U.S. under a temporary protected status. They filled the third floor of the Minnesota State Capitol before heading outside to draw attention to an urgent plea.
“We want President Trump to help extend DED for Liberia,” Erasmus Williams of the Organization of Liberians in Minnesota said. “President Bush did it. Former President Obama did it. It is our hope that President Trump can do the same.”
Previous presidents have chosen to extend DED, allowing Liberian immigrants to maintain legal status in the U.S. and granting them work permits.
But this Saturday, that could all change.
“Their work permit expires so that means they will not be going to jobs,” Abraham Bah of the Organization of Liberians in Minnesota said. “Their license expires, so that means they cannot drive. If they are arrested, they can be deported.”
“On March 31, we are going to be experiencing a crisis,” Williams said.
When a civil war broke out in Liberia almost 30 years ago, thousands of its residents fled to the U.S. Many entered the workforce in the Twin Cities, and lots of them found jobs in hospitals and nursing homes.
“It is a serious problem, and it will have a multiplying effect on the Liberian community and the state of Minnesota,” Williams said.
They worry children born in the U.S. could be sent to live with family friends or placed in foster care if their parents are deported.
“Families shouldn’t be separated,” Hellen Regina, a nursing assistant in Minnesota, said at the rally Monday. “So I am appealing to him so that families are not separated. The children can still be with their parents.”
Those affected by Saturday’s expiration of that program say they have not been able to become U.S. citizens because the pathway to citizenship is limited and complicated.
Restrictions in immigration laws make DED their only option to be able to stay. They’re working with members of Congress to try to get the laws changed.