March 8, 2013
The Honorable Barack Obama
President of the United States
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue N.W.
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President,
I write to urge you to renew Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) status for Liberians residing legally in the United States, set to expire on March 31 of this year, for at least two years. As you know, in December 1989 a terrible civil war began in Liberia that lasted seven years, causing over 150,000 deaths and forcing over half of Liberia’s population to either flee the country or become internally displaced. This humanitarian crisis led many Liberians to seek refuge in the United States. Attorney General Barr granted Liberians in the United States Temporary Protected Status (TPS) in 1991, and since then, many Liberians have stayed in the United States on either TPS or DED status.
With the free election of well-respected President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in recent years, Liberia is making great strides in the post-war rebuilding process. However, there is still much work to be done. Several ongoing security risks threaten residents and necessitate the presence of the United Nations Mission in Liberia. Among security risks that plague Liberian communities, the U.N. Secretary-General highlighted issues of civil unrest, public disorder, border instability, and violence against women. The percentage of people living below the poverty line is incredibly high at 64%, and 82% of the country is without access to proper sanitation. These socioeconomic circumstances would endanger returning Liberians who currently reside in the United States, many of whom have U.S. citizen children.
To assist in Liberia’s post-war recovery, it is of the utmost importance that we extend DED to Liberians currently in the United States and allow them to stay. Liberia’s infrastructure does not yet have the capacity to manage a sudden flood of Liberians back into the country, and such a mass movement would jeopardize the socioeconomic advances that have been made in the country so far. Liberians who have been making meaningful contributions to the American economy and military should not face deportation to a country that is not yet stable.
As immigration reform has emerged at the forefront of our nation’s priorities, any legalization plan must include protections for Liberians and their families. In the meantime, DED cannot be allowed to lapse for Liberians who are long-standing members of American communities awaiting a more permanent solution. Please take immediate steps to provide this protection in advance of March 31.
Linda Hartke, President and CEO
Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service