Liberians Go Home?

Via African Loft:

Thousands of Liberians living in the United States face deportation at the end of next month. This follows the expiry of the temporary immigration status granted to 14,000 Liberians who fled the civil war in the 1990s. The US government extended their temporary protection status during Charles Taylor’s dictatorship in Liberia. But after he was toppled in 2006, and a new government installed the following year, they were given 18 months to return home. Senator Jack Reed from Rhode Island, which has a large Liberian community, said many of them have become an important part of the community and should be allowed to stay. But Dan Stein, president of an NGO for immigration reform, said it is time for them to go back and rebuild their country.

Here is CNN clip on the story:

I find ludicrous the argument that this is a “mockery” of short term asylum… These Liberian families should be given credit for integrating and contributing to the elaboration of a diverse American society. This is how History happens – people migrate for varied reasons (including war) and establish themselves in new places. Why fight it?!

In addition, on a more pragmatic level, Liberians in Liberia rely on the vital lifeline provided by family members abroad. With 14,000 Liberians in the US, you can be sure that their wealth is spread deep into family circles back home. In fact, remittances from the US to Liberia averaged $6 million/month in 2007. (see previous post for background)

Of course, I’m sure the fact that some (but not all) Liberians in the US have been linked to gang violence and other societal woes is informing the opinions of deportation advocates. But what community doesn’t have its fringe? There are plenty of Liberians in the US who have productive, happy lives, and for who returning to Liberia means leaving schools and healthcare for their children (services they have earned through their hard work and contributions to the IRS). As the CNN report notes, some of these families have children who were born in the US and have US citizenship – we can at least hope that good immigration lawyers will be able to keep these families together.

It’s refreshing to see politicians such as Sen. Jack Reed from Rhode Island take a stand for the Liberians.

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