Homeland Security Discontinues Key Immigration Benefit for Liberian Citizens

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The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced Monday that the Temporary Protection Status (TPS), which permitted Liberian nationals, among others, to stay and work in the U.S., will not be renewed for Liberians, because conditions in their country “no longer support the TPS designation.”
The decision, which will come to effect in October of next year, will impact some 3,600 Liberians nationwide. At least half of those are thought to be in Minnesota.

The West African country, slightly larger than Tennessee, was founded by freed slaves from the U.S. almost two centuries ago. After decades of successive dictatorial regimes, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, a Harvard-educated bureaucrat, became the first democratically elected woman in Africa last year. Since then, Liberia enjoyed relative but fragile stability.

TPS was enacted in 1990 to allow asylum seekers from certain unstable countries to legally stay and work in the U.S. for a renewable period until a final decision is taken on their case. Seven countries, four Africans and three South Americans, are currently designated for the status.

Once TPS expires in October, DHS says holders will begin accruing “unlawful presence” in the U.S. and are “expected to depart,” otherwise they will be “subject to removal.”

“This decision to end the TPS designation for Liberians may have to do with the reported relative stability in Liberia since the last presidential election” says Abdi Osman, an adjunct professor of Law at the University of Minnesota.

Osman, who also directs the Somali American Legal Institute and has worked with many Somalis with TPS status, finds it hard to speculate what will transpire for Liberians if one of the competing immigration laws in the Congress passes.

“Everything will depend on the wording of the laws and how courts interpret that.” he said.

Minnesota is also home to the bulk of some 3,000 Somalis who are TPS holders. In the absence of stability, Prof. Osman predicts that it is highly unlikely that TPS will be cancelled for Somalis anytime soon.

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