By Yeganeh Torbati
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump on Thursday unexpectedly extended an immigration designation granting protected status to Liberians for an additional year, just three days before the status was to expire.
Trump last year ordered an end to Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) eligibility for Liberians, a status first granted to them during the presidency of Republican George W. Bush that enabled the immigrants to work and protected them from deportation. Trump declared a one-year “wind-down” period, which set the final expiration date of the status as March 31.
But on Thursday, Trump said he had changed his mind.
“Upon further reflection and review, I have decided that it is in the foreign policy interest of the United States to extend the wind-down period for an additional 12 months, through March 30, 2020,” Trump said in a memorandum to his secretaries of state and homeland security that was released by the White House.
“The reintegration of DED beneficiaries into Liberian civil and political life will be a complex task, and an unsuccessful transition could strain United States-Liberian relations and undermine Liberia’s post-civil war strides towards democracy and political stability.”
A coalition of Liberians with DED status and immigration advocacy groups sued the Trump administration this month in federal court seeking to stop the termination of DED. The groups estimate that some 4,000 Liberians in the United States are protected by DED.
Trump’s decision eliminates the “emergency” the Liberians were living with, said Erasmus Williams, a Liberian community leader in Minnesota, which has a large population of Liberians.
“We have ample time now to work through Congress to have legislation passed that will create a pathway to citizenship for Liberians on DED,” he said.
(Reporting by Yeganeh Torbati; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)