Thousands of West African Citizens in US Lose Temporary Residence Status – By Emmanuel Abalo
Thousands of West African Citizens in US Lose Temporary Residence Status
The Trump Administration Government through its Citizen and Immigration Service has ended the Temporary Protective Status (TPS) for thousands of Guineans, Liberians and Sierra Leoneans in the United States.
Following a teleconference held on May 16, 2017 followed by a release issued, a copy of which was sent to the African Star, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) advised nationals of the three West African countries that the TPS designations will terminate effective May 21, 2017.
The USCIS noted that the West Africans were issued a reminder on the termination back in September, 2016 “to provide sufficient time for the orderly transition.”
“…Homeland Security gave beneficiaries under these designations 8 months advance notice of the expiration by publishing 23 notices in the Federal Register on September 22, 2016 (one for each country). These notices urged individuals who did not have another immigration status to use the time before the termination became effective in May to prepare for and arrange their departure from the United States or to apply for other immigration benefits for which they may be eligible” the release said.
The US Immigration Service advised that although TPS benefits including work permits may no longer be available beginning May 21, 2017, anyone holding other immigration status which was acquired while registered for TPS will continue to enjoy those benefits.
The US Immigration Service, however, warned that TPS related Employment Authorization documents issued to the nationals of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone that will no longer be valid after May 21st.
According to the release, the US Government took the decision to terminate TPS designation after reviewing country conditions and consulting with appropriate U.S. government agencies and it was determined that conditions in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone no longer support their TPS designations since the abatement of the widespread Ebola pandemic.
The US government issued the TPS designations in November, 2014 for an initial period of 18 months for nationals of the 3 countries due to the outbreak of the Ebola virus. The designation which included Employment Authorization was extended in May 2015 and subsequently thereafter.
Additionally, Liberian nationals who are covered under the 2 year extension of Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) were eligible to apply for the Ebola related TPS. The DED protection and Employment Authorization for Liberians were offered following the expiration of TPS in 2007 by former President George W. Bush and subsequently extended twice for 6 months by former President Barack Obama through September 2014.
Obama again issued another 2 year DED extension from October, 2014. That extension expires in March, 2018.
A Liberian community leader and Executive Director of the non-profit African Center in New York , Mr. Saywalah Kesselly, in reaction, told the African Star newspaper that “returning these nationals does not seem to be an appealing proposition due to the dire economic straits in these 3 countries.”
Mr. Kesselly noted that sending back the Guineans, Liberians and Sierra Leoneans was tantamount to “condemning them to poverty and maybe death,” adding that “voluntary departure is not an option for these people.”
He called for last minute lobbying efforts and a petition to the U.S. government to reconsider its decision of providing protection of these West African nationals. The Liberian Community activist, however, said that those affected have to advocate for themselves first.
“What happens next is something that we all have to ponder,” Kesselly said.
Another Liberia community leader and educator based in Providence, Rhode Island Mr. Edmund Bargblor in his reaction said that one solution is to allow dual citizenship so that citizens in the Diaspora, as a voting block can engage Congressional members for benefits for their countries.
“The US government has dealt with Liberians out of sympathy and does not see Liberia as a strategic partner”, Bargblor said.
He argued that “the longer the issue of dual citizenship lingers from passage the lesser Liberia will benefit from opportunities to avoid such decisions as the termination of TPS designation for Liberians and increase in bilateral aid from the United States.”
Madam Angela Jengo, a naturalized American citizen, retired professor and member of the Sierra Leone Womens’ Club in Philadephia, Pennsylvania criticized the Trump Administration to decision to terminate the TPS designation. Ms. Jengo who serves on the local Democratic Party Committee said they will continue to resist all attempts to undo the Obama legacy.
She also criticized the governments of the 3 West African countries, saying that “they don’t listen to their citizens in the Diaspora except for receipt of aid which is channeled to particular geographic locations back whom which they have interests in.”
The US Immigration Service has warned that Guineans, Liberians and Sierra Leones with no other lawful immigration status on May 21, 2017 will no longer be protected from removal and risk enforcement proceedings by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
About 4,500 nationals of the 3 countries are affected by the termination of the TPS designation.
By Emmanuel Abalo
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