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Extension of Deferred Enforced Departure for Liberians
Temporary protection of Liberians, first granted in 1991, will expire on September 30, 2014, if President Obama fails to extend the current Deferred Enforced Departure period. Stalled immigration policy reform and the refugee crisis on border are rightly at the top of advocates' and the Administration's agendas, but without action by the President, Liberians who have made the U.S. their home for over two decades will face deportation in September. Please, join the call for President Obama to extend Deferred Enforced Departure for Liberians. 
The Honorable Barack Obama
President of the United States
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20500
Dear Mr. President:
As community, advocacy, religious, and faith-based organizations dedicated to serving and advocating on behalf of refugees and immigrants in the United States, we call on you to extend Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) status for Liberians, which by your order will expire on September 30, 2014. We ask that you extend DED to Liberians for an additional 24-month period to ensure that they are not ordered deported from the United States. We call on you both to continue to champion immigration reform, which will provide an opportunity for Liberians and others who have resided in the United States under long-term but temporary protection to apply for permanent legal status, and to take this administrative action to ensure Liberian families are not torn apart.
Many Liberians fled civil war and human rights atrocities between 1979 and 2003, finding refuge and making homes in the United States. In many cases, Liberians were recognized as refugees and were able to move forward to become permanent residents and, eventually, U.S. citizens. Some Liberians, however, found themselves in a continuing loop of temporary protection, without an option to become lawful permanent residents. Today, a small number of Liberian nationals face an end to the temporary legal status which has been renewed by every President in the past 23 years. If their legal status is allowed to expire in September they will face deportation to a still struggling country and separation from their families, livelihoods, and communities.
The United States has a special historical relationship with the Liberian people. In 1822, a group of former slaves from the United States arrived in what was to become Liberia's capital city, Monrovia, named after U.S. President James Monroe. The first eight presidents of Liberia were born in the United States. The Liberian flag is patterned after our own. The national language of Liberia is English. Liberia has been a strategic and military ally of the United States, particularly during World War II when Liberia provided access to rubber and served as a troop transit point for American forces, and during the Cold War when Liberia continued to stand with our country.
Liberia experienced civil violence in 1979, a military coup in 1980, and two civil wars between 1989 and 2003. Hundreds of thousands of Liberians were forced to flee the atrocities of those conflicts. Many Liberians came to the United States, in some cases returning to the land their ancestors worked as slaves. As many as 270,000 Liberians now reside here lawfully, with large Liberian communities situated in California, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island. While most have obtained legal permanent residence and many have become United States citizens, an estimated 3,600 have only the temporary legal status that is conferred by DED.
While the number of Liberians holding DED is small, the impact of their removal would be catastrophic to the Liberian community and to metropolitan areas with large Liberian populations. Certain sectors of the economy, such as long-term healthcare institutions, employ large numbers of Liberians and could experience a worker shortage. Neighborhoods recovering from the economic crisis would be set back by people leaving their homes and businesses behind upon deportation.
Most devastating of all, families who have built their lives in the United States would see their family members deported. Families like that of a Liberian teenager from Minnesota, who came to the United States when she was four years old. Although this spring she graduated high school where her little sister, a U.S. citizen, is still a student, and hopes to attend college and enter the Reserve Officer Training Corps this fall, she and her mother remain on DED and face deportation in September.
The Liberian conflict wreaked havoc on the Liberian family structure, which not only separated family members caught behind the lines of the fighting factions but deliberately used child soldiers, rape, and murder to break down families as a tactic of war. Liberians who sought protection in the United States have painstakingly rebuilt their lives following the trauma of war. They have married and raised families here, and many have U.S.-born children. Forcing the return of those under DED would tear these families apart.
The devastating effects of the Liberian conflict continue to be felt. During the brutal Liberian civil wars, fighters committed wide-scale violations of international humanitarian and human rights law including massacres, rape, torture, summary executions, and collective punishments. Fighting factions made widespread use of child soldiers. Up to 90% of women suffered sexual violence during the war. Out of a pre-war population of three million, an estimated 250,000 people were killed, with as many as 1.5 million displaced during the conflict.
Although the country has made tremendous progress under the inspired leadership of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Liberia today remains ravaged, with minimal health care resources, massive unemployment, and widespread sexual violence and armed robbery. Many continue to question whether the country can yet absorb the returnees economically – certainly there would be few if any jobs for them – and they continue to predict that the Liberian population would likely resent the returnees. Thus the deportation of individuals from the United States would place them directly in harm's way.
At the same time, according to the government of Liberia, private remittances from Liberians in the United States to Liberia total millions of dollars a month, providing a critical lifeline of financial assistance and economic stability that would be ruptured if the DED Liberians were deported.
On July 16, 2009, July 17, 2012, and again on July 17, 2013, you declared a continuation of a national emergency for the United States with respect to the circumstances in Liberia. You most recently wrote that" [a]lthough Liberia has made advances to promote democracy, and the Special Court for Sierra Leone recently convicted Charles Taylor for war crimes and crimes against humanity, the actions and policies of former Liberian President Charles Taylor and other persons, in particular their unlawful depletion of Liberian resources and their removal from Liberia and secreting of Liberian funds and property, could still challenge Liberia's efforts to strengthen its democracy and the orderly development of its political, administrative, and economic institutions and resources. These actions and policies continue to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the foreign policy of the United States.” Liberians should not now be sent back to a country where their lives would be imperiled and their arrival would further destabilize the fragile peace.
Deportation of Liberians here under Deferred Enforced Departure would destroy families, deprive American communities of their productive work, strain the Liberian economy, destabilize Liberia's governance, and jeopardize the lives and well-being of those deported and those left behind.
Please act immediately to ensure that Deferred Enforced Departure for Liberians is extended for an additional 24 months beyond September 30, 2014.
The Advocates for Human Rights
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