The decision of the US to end temporary
Protected Status for Liberians
By Jackie Sayegh
The decision of the US Homeland Security to terminate Liberians as deserving of Temporary Protected Status seems to be the practical thing to do in light of the recent developments in Liberia. However, the practical thing does not always mean that it is right or morally defensible. In order to fully understand the outrage and betrayal Liberians now feel upon this termination, a bit of history is in order.
Temporary Protected Status did not start in 2002 as some believe. It began in 1990, at the start of the Liberian civil war, when former President George Bush granted Liberians who were residing legally in the US the designation of Temporary Protected Status to enable them to work and live in the US. Over the years, that designation has continued, moving to DED (Deferred Enforced Departure) and then back to TPS. Hence, there are Liberians in the US who have been on TPS for more than 15 years! Liberians have been shocked and awed by this shockingly awful situation.
While TPS has created a somewhat bearable situation, this legal limbo is in some ways worse than being in this country illegally. For example, the TPS provision states that sixty days before the termination of TPS, the Attorney General should decide whether or not to extend the TPS. For many of the years Liberians have been on TPS, the Attorney General (Reno, Ashcroft, and now Gonzales) have waited until a week or even after the date to extend the TPS. This delay has cost many Liberians their jobs continuously over the years. The end of September has come to signal dread as Liberians start to worry if the TPS will be renewed, and if so, will it be in a timely manner. Many of those on TPS are families with US born children. Some of these kids are now 14 and throughout all of that time, their parents have been on TPS. Imagine more than 15 years in an immigration limbo.
While once has to concede that this is their country,
and they can do whatever they want, the US must be fair
in its dealings with Liberia. Of the number of Liberian
in the US, (approximately 20,00 on TPS) , is negligible
when one considers that during the time Liberians were
on TPS, the US admitted more than 100,00 Eastern Europeans
into the US. The rationale that Liberia now has a peacekeeping
force is moot when one considers that Kosovo has a peace
keeping force as well. Why are they not being sent to
their country? Many of the Eastern Europeans were granted
permanent residency within five years or less of their
arrival in the US, some even at the port of entry into
the US! In 2005, 32,784 refugees were admitted into
the US from Vietnam; 22,761 from Ukraine; 60,748 from
the Philippines alone! In 1998, 26,606 new arrivals
came from Europe while the entire continent of Africa
had 17,953 new arrivals into the US. In the same year,1998,
8,857 persons from Europe were entered in to the US
and their status adjusted to permanent resident status
UPON ENTRY into the US, only 37 from Liberia were given
the same treatment. 37! In 2005, the US admitted 4,289
Liberians as refugees into the US, 5,982 refugees came
from Russia, and 8,517 from Laos.
The process of ensuring that people who flee unimaginable horrors be allowed to live in peace is not complicated. Neither is it complex to allow those who have spent years building their lives, raising their children, and contributing to the US economy to be given the same opportunities that seems to be extended to people from other areas of the world.
President Johnson-Sirleaf request for an extension of TPS during her address to the US government is laudable, but an extension is not what is needed. Liberians need to be given permanent residency. This “friendship” that has been touted among the two countries for years need to be reciprocal, not one sided. The shadow of uncertainty that has hung over many for 15 years needs to be removed so that Liberians here can go on with the process of living unhindered and unafraid.
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