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With Trump deadline on Liberian immigrants’ status looming, February declared ‘DED Awareness Month’

It’s been almost one year since President Donald Trump ordered an end to special legal status for certain immigrants from Liberia, and with that March 31 deadline fast approaching, the Minnesota Liberian community — the largest Liberian population outside of war-torn and poverty-stricken Liberia — is sounding the alarm.

“All hands on deck,” Liberian community leader Erasmus Williams implored a crowd of about 50 Friday evening at the Liberian Community Center in Brooklyn Park, where state Sen. John Hoffman, D-Champlin, and others spoke about the urgency of the situation. Trump has threatened to end the program, called Deferred Enforced Departure (DED), which has allowed natives of the West African country to live and work in the United States since 2007. If the edict goes through, it could mean the deportation of hundreds if not thousands of the estimated 30,000 Liberians living in Minnesota.

“Today, we are here to witness history,” Williams told the gathered dreamers and would-be new Americans. “A history that we look forward to being duplicated by all states throughout the United States. And we know if this duplication takes place, definitely our result will come sooner than later. Last night, we had a very good teleconference with member chapters across the United States. So everything you see going on in Minnesota now, pretty soon you will hear people in Iowa having a meeting, people in Philadelphia having a meeting, seeing what they can do. With just a little faith, we can get it done.”

“We’ve been talking about how we do something to get the door open so people take notice,” Hoffman told the crowd. “And the first thing is to do a simple resolution, and that’s what I did — a simple resolution. One little resolution can open the doorway for other activities to happen, and the work that’s been done on this says to Congressman [Dean] Phillips and the other congressional leaders, ‘Look, in Minnesota, the state Senate says this is wrong and this is what we want to happen.’”

(In a separate act of support for Liberian immigrants facing potential deportation, another of Minnesota’s  congressional representatives, U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, DFL-Fifth District, announced Monday morning that her guest at Tuesday’s State of the Union address will be Linda Clark, a Liberian immigrant from Minnesota.)

Hoffman presented a resolution signed by members of the Minnesota Senate requesting an extension of DED, and last week the City of Brooklyn Park declared February “DED Awareness Month,” which includes a rally on Feb. 22. MinnPost took in the resolution reading and meeting, which was carried live on television in Liberia, in words and photos:

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Joel Reeves: “I made these signs (asking Trump to extend Deferred Enforced Departure and Temporary Protected Status rights) to let the president know that we’re very concerned. I’m actually a U.S. citizen, and my family is very much impacted by Deferred Enforced Departure, and we know that he has power to extend and reinstate DED, so we want to let him know that we’re pleading to him. This is very important to our community here in the Twin Cities, this is very important to Minnesota, this is very important to the United States of America, because these are people. People with jobs, working-class people. Some of these people have been in this country for 27 years; I’m 27 years old, I’ve been here my entire life. Families will be affected in the thousands, so we just want to plead to President Trump to please extend DED.”

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Liberians in Minnesota community members gathered at the Liberian Community Center in Brooklyn Park on Feb. 1.

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Georgette Gray, executive director, Organization of Liberians in Minnesota (OLM): “We met with [Rep.] Dean Phillips (on Jan. 28), and it went very well. We are very pleased to know that he is trying and pushing and making some connections to help us extend DED for our people, and also there are other bills in Congress that they’re pushing to create a pathway for citizenship for a lot of others. Minnesota has a very large Liberian community, so Minnesota always sets the trend. We are [promoting] DED Awareness Month with other Liberian organizations down to other states and hoping other states will follow suit and create DED awareness in their states as well.

“As a community leader, it is very, very difficult. We have families who have lived here for over 25 years, with kids in college, high school, elementary school. They are the breadwinners for these children. In some cases, we have both mom and dad affected by this, and you have to ask what happens to the children? It’s very worrisome. It’s critical. We get phone calls all the time, we get people walking into our office crying, not knowing what’s going to happen. But we are trusting God first, and we are holding our congressmen and women to it, hoping they will push it. It’s a very rocky road, but we’re hopeful that something will happen; we’re praying something will happen.”   

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Liberians in Minnesota community members started the meeting at the Liberian Community Center in Brooklyn Park on Feb. 1 with a prayer.

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Liberians in Minnesota community members started the meeting with a prayer.

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Erasmus Williams, chairman of immigration, Organization of Liberians in Minnesota: “Most of the schools in Brooklyn Park and Brooklyn Center are largely populated with Liberian kids, and most of the kids’ parents are on DED and TPS. It’s more important than you can imagine. If you talk about the amount of people impacted, all of them have kids. All of those kids are United States citizens, and all of those kids are underage. They don’t have any relatives to be left with, OK? These people are taxpayers, working people, they don’t cause any trouble, all of them came to this country through a legal point of entry, all of them came to this country with the consent of the United States government. Because of the war in [Liberia], America has become their home — not just for them, but for their family and their kids.”

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Abraham Brima Bah, chairman, Organization of Liberians in Minnesota: “Our people who are affected with DED have American-born children, and if their parents are taken away from them, that will affect them economically and deprive most of them of their school. That is why we are appealing to the president, Donald Trump, so that he can reinstate DED for maybe three years and hopefully that will lead to permanency for Liberians affected by DED. We’ve organized these events, and we’re hoping by God’s grace things will work out, hoping the various congress people we spoke with, and other lawmakers, will push our case, because our case is unique. Most Liberians came to this country legally. They work in various institutions in this country, and contribute with small businesses running, and so we are appealing to the president because he is the only one who can extend DED.”

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Minnesota Sen. John Hoffman read the Senate resolution that he had written.

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

State Sen. John Hoffman shook hands with Erasmus Williams of Organization of Liberians in Minnesota after reading the Senate resolution urging Minnesota leaders to persuade President Trump to extend DED and TPS.

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Comments (15)

  1. Submitted by Curtis Senker on 02/04/2019 - 10:56 am.

    Temporary Protected Status….Emphasis on “temporary”.

    Liberia is as stable as it’s likely to get. It has a functioning government and a free press. Time to go home.

    • Submitted by Bob Barnes on 02/04/2019 - 01:03 pm.

      Couldn’t agree more. Temporary should have ended years ago. Go home and fix your own nation from within.

    • Submitted by Nicky Noel on 02/04/2019 - 02:39 pm.

      You can’t just arbitrarily decide it’s not temporary, and then decades later, decide that it is. That’s the problem — it was never implemented as a temporary program. Now, parents are facing deportation and their children are not citizens of the country their parents are being deported to. I can’t imagine something so arbitrary, cruel, and antithetical to family values than to administer this program as the federal government has, and then randomly act to separate families without any legitimate justification for the change. Open your hearts and minds a little…

      • Submitted by Bob Barnes on 02/04/2019 - 03:14 pm.

        It was made Temporary from day 1. Temporary doesn’t mean a decade or several decades. Temporary is a short term. These people should have taken steps to become US citizens if they didn’t want to be deported.

        • Submitted by Nicky Noel on 02/04/2019 - 04:22 pm.

          I would recommend reading a little more about DED, or perhaps even this very article that you are commenting on. Recipients of DED were never allowed to apply for citizenship, or permanent resident, or basically any permanent form of status. Literally all they have been asking for is a chance to apply for permanent status, and the government continued to extend the temporary program for 20 years without a path out for most people.

          My point is that the Congress may have named this program “temporary” but never once has there ever been a serious Executive discussion about ending it until Trump arbitrarily decided it last year. There has been bipartisan support for this program since it was created in the 90s. From civil war to economic instability to natural disasters to Ebola — there has never been a safe time for Liberians to return. That’s also why it has been extended consistently since its inception.

          • Submitted by Nicky Noel on 02/04/2019 - 04:46 pm.

            Sorry, I don’t mean to be snarky or rude, but it’s frustrating to hear these same recycled talking points over and over when it’s simply not the case. We should be applauding folks for starting with nothing and creating a thriving community — one that disproportionately runs our entire healthcare system in the Twin Cities! These folks don’t want a hand out — they want to finally have solid ground to stand on in the form of permanent status so they can continue to work their butts off. If someone calls themself a Christian, I expect them to follow in Christ’s footsteps and advocate for all families and children, not just ones who lucked out in terms of where they were born or what status was available to them at the time.

          • Submitted by Curtis Senker on 02/04/2019 - 07:38 pm.

            TPS was granted while Liberians were engaging in civil war. The war is over.

            There are many unstable countries in the world. It is up to the citizens of thise countries to sort out their problems. It is not incumbent on us to take in the consequences of every failed state.

          • Submitted by Bob Barnes on 02/05/2019 - 08:25 am.

            Nonsene. The war is over and their country is as stable as it’s ever going to be. They could have left at any time and then applied to come back legally. They chose not to. They are abusing the system and our generosity. This program should never have been started and certainly should have ended long ago. Other nations can step up for a change and start taking in refugees, we can’t afford it, we are beyond broke and too many groups refuse to assimilate and instead make tiny versions of their home nations here in America.

      • Submitted by Curtis Senker on 02/04/2019 - 07:41 pm.

        People that abuse TPS do a disservice to others that may need it in the future.

        By using TPS as a backdoor to permanent immigration status, it discredits the humanitarian gesture, and lessons the chance we will extend it in the future.

        We sheltered these folks during the civil war. The war is over. It’s time to go home.

  2. Submitted by Karen Sandness on 02/04/2019 - 03:37 pm.

    These people have made lives here, almost all in a constructive manner. They are an essential part of the nursing home and hospice staffs in this area, as you would know if you ever visited anyone who was in those institutions. The upscale nursing home that my mother and stepfather were in had a staff that was probably 3/4 West African, mostly Liberian.

    Who is going to replace them, when people from other groups can do more pleasant jobs for the same amount of money?

    • Submitted by Bob Barnes on 02/05/2019 - 08:26 am.

      Just maybe those place will raise wages so Americans will do the jobs instead. That’s better for our economy and our own citizens.

      • Submitted by Karen Sandness on 02/07/2019 - 10:18 am.

        You think so? One of the things that makes the Liberians and other West Africans such good employees for nursing homes is their tradition of respect for the elderly.

        I think that if you look at past cases of elder abuse in nursing homes, you will find that most of them have occurred in small towns where there are no Africans to hire.

  3. Submitted by Joe Musich on 02/05/2019 - 06:45 pm.

    Now the usual umamericans are screeching about Liberians. Give me a break. Many of these people are a indirect product of slavery who returned to the created country of Liberia after the American Civil War. If anything they are owed reparations. For some of you it is way past time to get off of elevated American Exceptioalism horse and go searching for a heart.

  4. Submitted by ndeminah mulbah on 02/08/2019 - 05:39 am.

    These negative comments are beyond hateful . I am a young adult who was brought here at the age of 7 lawfully and comited no crimes paid my taxes and tried my best to make the best out of my life here . I will be affected by the end ded and fear having to be separated from the life I know . The memories I have as a child in Liberian wasn’t the best . Could you imagine being as young Child seeing killing and other violent things going on during the civil war . I love my home liberia but as a young person I have opportunities I never imagined to have in America and the fear of the life I only know being taken away from me keeps me up at night and causes me anxiety. Some would say tps or ded applicants are abusing the system but I strongly disagree . I watched my parents who also Ded recipients struggle to make ends meet for me and my sisters but was never given opportunities for path way to citizenship . When I was younger I was told American was a land of opportunities for everyone from all different walks of background. All I want and I believe most tps and Ded Recipients want is equal opportunities in this great land and not to be separated from the life they know and families . Ask yourself this question what harm is that really to you ?

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