End of DED program could impact Minnesota health care industry

President Donald Trump granted a one-year extension to the program allowing Liberians to stay in the U.S., but the potential mass deportations next year could have major implications for the health care industry. 

Thousands of Liberians in Minnesota work in the health care industry in areas from nursing to home health care. Advocates say deporting thousands of Liberians would have a wide-ranging ripple effect and add to all critical labor shortages.

“It’s not easy to send a group of people back,” said Kulah Jarry. “It’s going to be something else for the health care.”

Jarry is a trained medication aide at a senior care facility in New Hope. She says her bosses saw a preview of the future if thousands of Liberians are forced to leave Minnesota. Earlier this week, many of her co-workers joined a rally at the Capitol calling for an extension of the Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) program.

“Each unit carries about six aides, so that day, each unit had only two and you need three,” said Jarry. “So it was challenging for them that day.”

DED for Liberians was set to expire this Saturday, but President Donald Trump granted an extension to March 31, 2019. The program allows Liberians to work in the U.S. legally, but there is no path to legal status. The latest figures estimate at least 3,000 to 4,000 Liberians in Minnesota work in the health care field.

“They’re caring people,” said Abdullah Kiatamba, Executive Director of African Immigrant Services in Brooklyn Park. “They love to care for people, and most of them, health care provided an easy way for them to integrate into society.”

Kiatamba says the challenge now is not only finding an extension for DED, but a path to legal status for those it helps. Representative Keith Ellison and Senator Amy Klobuchar are both sponsoring bills in Congress that aim to find a permanent solution.

“The only thing we need to make sure [of now] is we don’t have to go through the fear, the paranoia, the anxiety,” said Kiatamba.

Jarry is one of the lucky ones. She was able to move from DED status to permanent resident status. She hopes more people from her country find the same relief.

“You don’t want to be a liability on anybody, so we try to live better,” said Jarry.

The Trump Administration contends the situation in Liberia has stabilized after years of civil war and the Ebola outbreak, but Liberians in the U.S. said their home country is still in no shape to take in thousands of deportees.