Liberian immigrants celebrate extension of protections but still hold out hope for permanent relief
Isabella Wreh-Fofana said she at first didn’t believe the breaking news Thursday that the Trump administration had, at the last minute, reversed course and extended protections for Liberian immigrants. But it was true. “Then, in like five minutes, I called about 20 people,” she said. Wreh-Fofana and thousands of others had been bracing for the worst.
Had Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) not been extended for another year, through March 2020, their status would have expired this weekend, making them undocumented. Just think about it: In the span of one weekend, they would have lost their ability to work legally and become vulnerable to deportation. It’s a terrifying prospect for any family. “I couldn’t sleep,” beneficiary Marie Zar said.
Advocates believe the administration decided to extend DED due to a lawsuit from Liberian immigrants, legal action which they made clear will continue. “Our suspicions and doubts about why the Trump administration ended DED last year have not shifted,” Patrice Lawrence of the UndocuBlack Network said. “The president has repeatedly expressed disgust, contempt and outright prejudice against all immigrants and Black immigrants particularly.”
The administration also stated that the one-year extension is a “wind-down period,” meaning that, as welcome as this news is, these protections remain temporary. What these families need is action from Congress. “We’re mindful that this is only a one-year extension—DED is still terminated,” said Amaha Kassa of African Communities Together. “It took the concerted pressure from this lawsuit, members of Congress, and a wide range of community advocates to secure this win. We need to keep that pressure up.”
DED, Temporary Protected Status, and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals families need permanent relief in the form of the Dream and Promise Act. “I’m happy, but there’s still fear,” Wreh-Fofana said. She worries about what would happen should DED be gone with no relief in its place. “When you see a police officer coming, you start to panic. It’s emotional stress, and it’s hard. I can’t put words to everything, but it’s very difficult.”