March 20, 2013 NEWS RELEASE — LIRS Hails Decision to Continue Deferring Deportation of Liberian Refugees

Press Contact: Jon Pattee

WASHINGTON, DC March 20, 2012 — Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) welcomes President Barack Obama’s recent decision to continue deferring the deportation of Liberians who fled to the United States to escape their homeland’s devastating civil war.

The presidential memorandum on deferred enforced departure (DED), which was made public on Friday, March 15, continues deferring the deportation of certain Liberians. Since 1991, Liberians present in the United States have been given various renewals of their ability to stay here. The new decision extends this special period for eligible Liberians by 18 months.

“President Obama has made a just and compassionate decision by extending ‘deferred enforced departure’ for Liberians who managed to find safety in America after fleeing the horrors of a seven-year civil war,” said LIRS President and CEO Linda Hartke. “LIRS has long advocated for this step, and we’re grateful that the president listened to the voices of human rights leaders and upheld the American value of protecting vulnerable men, women, and children.”

As part of a years-long campaign to protect Liberian refugees, LIRS on March 8 sent the president a letter urging that DED be renewed.

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 the security risks that plague Liberian communities, the U.N. has highlighted civil unrest, public disorder, border instability, and violence against women. The percentage of people living below the poverty line is incredibly high at 64%. These socioeconomic circumstances would endanger returning Liberians who now reside in the United States, many of whom have U.S. citizen children.

“The extension of DED is of the utmost importance in assisting Liberia’s post-war recovery,” said Hartke. “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 should not face deportation to a country that is not yet stable,” said Hartke. “As immigration reform has moved to the top of our nation’s priorities, any legalization plan must include protections for Liberians and their families.”

Both the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod have many Liberians among their membership, both at home and abroad. The churches’ advocacy for the safety and well-being of all Liberians has been vital, as has been the work of The Advocates for Human Rights.

LIRS is nationally recognized for its leadership advocating on behalf of refugees, asylum seekers, unaccompanied children, immigrants in detention, families fractured by migration and other vulnerable populations, and for providing services to migrants through over 60 grassroots legal and social service partners across the United States.