For years, Congress has discussed the need for comprehensive immigration reform, yet there has been little progress in advancing legislation that would protect the millions of immigrants living in the United States without permanent residence or citizenship. Actions by the Trump administration in 2017 are ending programs that have provided temporary legal status for certain immigrant groups, including the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for refugees from certain countries, and a lesser known Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) program that specifically protects Liberian refugees.
The DED program allows Liberians to work in the U.S. and travel freely. DED was first created in 1999, and many Liberians have used both DED and TPS to remain in the country legally for almost three decades. The Department of Homeland Security says it is hard to quantify how many people are live with DED status, estimating that around 3,600 people are currently protected by DED. The elimination of DED means many Liberians will be without legal residency documents as of the program end date on March 31, 2019. The program’s end will affect thousands more people and could tear apart families, since many affected people have children who are American citizens.