The Trump administration announced it will discontinue a Clinton-era program that granted Liberian citizens special immigration status. On Tuesday night, the administration announced its plan to end the Deferred Enforcement Departure program, formed under Bill Clinton in 1999 which allowed Liberians, many of whom had lived through the Second Civil War, to live and work in the US legally, reports AP News.
The program’s recipients will be given a one year “wind down” period before they must return to Liberia. Their protections will expire on March 31, 2019. The program, which was extended under the Bush and Obama administrations, will cease under Trump, as he believes that it is no longer needed. The country is “no longer experiencing armed conflict,” he said in a memorandum. Also adding that Libera has made “significant progress in restoring stability and democratic governance.”
According the the Department of Homeland Security, a total of 839 Liberians are current beneficiaries of the program. Now, Liberian immigrants — many of whom have lived lawfully in the country since the late ’90s and early 2000s — will face the choice of living as illegal immigrants or returning to a country they lived in for nearly two decades, one that their children have never seen or barely recognize. This will affect the communities as well. Immigrants add $1.6 trillion to the economy each year, of that, $35 billion is a net benefit to the companies and communities where they live. When immigration officers forcibly remove individuals from their homes, it impacts the psychological, emotional and economic well-being of their families and communities.
“This is home for me,” Nancy Harris, a DED holder from Alabama, said Monday. “I’m pleading with Congress and the president to just consider us—we’re not a large group of people. Our communities benefit from us.”
Trump has cut several programs that protect immigrant rights since the start of his presidency. His administration has also worked to scale down the Temporary Protected Status program which allows similar work protections to citizens from identified nations. Last year, he rescinded the Deferred Action for Childhood (DACA) policy, putting nearly 800,000 immigrants brought to the United States before the age of 16 at risk of deportation.