THE Episcopal Church in the United States is campaigning for the rights of up to 4000 Liberian immigrants to stay in the US, after President Trump ended a programme protecting them from exportation.
Protection for the group ends on Sunday, after the President dismissed concerns about sending the migrants back. Liberia is still suffering from the aftermath of an outbreak of the Ebola virus, and recovering from a civil war that broke out in 1989. Many fled then to the US, and have been living there for 30 years.
Owing to ongoing poor conditions in Liberia, Liberian immigrants had been protected in the US under a programme known as Deferred Enforced Departure (DED), but, last year, President Trump announced the end of the scheme.
Some 2500 of the Liberians under DED live in Minnesota. The Revd James Wilson is Priest-in-Charge of Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Saint Paul, Minnesota, and, like many of his congregation, a Liberian migrant himself, although he is a US citizen. “As a Liberian immigrant and active stakeholder of the Minnesota Liberian community, I am deeply troubled by the anti-immigrants and anti-Muslims immigration policies of President Trump that are making living conditions difficult for immigrants and putting Muslims at risk,” he said.
“Immigration is primarily humanitarian, and, therefore, immigration policies need to be humane and immigrants are to be treated humanely and not as though we are sub-humans. Though border security and immigration policies are important, treating immigrants humanly and with dignity should take precedence, realising that the United States of America is a country of immigrants.”
He said that the deadline imposed by the President for Liberians to leave the country or arrange alternative immigration status was traumatising families.
“They are living in perpetual fear. And, if the deportation order goes into effect, Liberians on DED will lose their driving privileges, will not be able to work, lose their homes, lose their work authorisation, will not be eligible for social-security benefits, will be denied their retirement benefits, and many children will be separated from their parents. A big trouble is hanging over the Liberian immigrants community in the USA.”
The Episcopal Church is calling on Congress to ask the President to reinstate the programme and invite Liberian migrants to apply for citizenship.
Lacy Broemel, of the Church’s Office of Government Relations, said: “The decision to terminate DED will have lasting impacts on local communities and families.
“DED recipients who are valued members of local communities should have an opportunity to seek permanent status rather than being forced to return to countries they may have left decades prior.”
Dean Phillips, a Congressman for Minnesota, has also joined the campaign to allow the Liberian migrants to remain in the US. He said: “Minnesota is home to the largest Liberian population in the United States, and I’m proud to represent the vast majority of them. They are our extraordinary neighbours, friends, care givers, and local business owners.
“Minnesota is their home. Uprooting them after decades of living and working in our community would be inhumane, and would cause extraordinary disruption to our local economy. If President Trump does not reverse his Executive Order, it is incumbent upon Congress to quickly ensure that our Liberian neighbours are protected from deportation.”