(KMSP) - President Donald Trump is ordering one last extension of a program allowing some Liberians in the United States legal residency before planning to officially end the arrangement next year.
As the March 31 deadline to make a decision loomed, many Liberians living in Minnesota took to the state Capitol steps Monday for a rally in the hopes of inspiring action from political leaders. An estimated 14,000 Liberians live in Minnesota, making up what some believe is the largest population of people from the country outside of west Africa.
Tuesday's news that the program will only last for another year, however, is sure to come as a blow for Liberians--some of whom have been in the United States for more than a decade under "Deferred Enforced Departure," a humanitarian immigration program that has allowed an estimated 4,200 of the country's residents to escape two successive civil wars in their country.
Many of the program's recipients say the United States is the only home they've ever known, and are unsure what will happen to them if they are forced out of the country come next year.
"There’s nothing temporary about 15 or 20 years," said Caroline Grimes, a DED recipient from Minnesota who came to the United States 17 years ago. "Still, our existence continues to be temporary ... it's been a nightmare to think about the end, but the nightmare continues."
The program was originally intended to be temporary after its conception in 2007, but ultimately was extended by both President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama.
Republicans in Congress, meanwhile, say they hope to find a more permanent solution by the time DED runs out on March 31 of next year.
“This is a reprieve for thousands of Minnesota Liberians who faced the end of DED protection in just a few days,” said Rep. Erik Paulsen, R-Minnesota, in a statement. “While I’m encouraged that Liberian families no longer face an imminent threat of deportation, there’s still more work to do. The additional year gives me and my colleagues on both sides of the aisle more time to work toward a permanent solution, and it give us more time to raise awareness and educate others about what our Liberian community means to Minnesota.”
For more information about DED and the latest update, click here.