‘Time and Political Environment Not on Your Side,’ Liberians on DED Warned
By Jeff Cooper
Mr. Kerper Dwanyen spoke at the launching of the Campaign for Permanent Residency for Liberians in the United States, in Brooklyn Park. “Time and political environment are not on our side,” he told the estimated 300 Liberians gathered for the event.
Dwayne said unless a permanent solution was found Liberians who currently benefit from President Obama’s March 24 Executive Order extending their stay in the United States for further 12 months may have to go home in 2010. He appealed to Minnesota Congressional delegates and his fellow Liberians to work together to spare their children the agony of thinking what it will be like to be separated from their parents. He said while it was true Liberian war has ended, the country remains heavily dependent on good will from around world to feed its citizens and rebuild the shattered economy.
Dwanyen said the challenge before his leadership was huge because while he was lobbying US Congressional delegates for help, the United States Ambassador to Liberia Linda Thomas-Greenfield who is against permanent residency for Liberians was telling her government that Liberia was no longer at war and therefore sees no reason for continuous stay of Liberians in the US on the basis of insecurity or war. Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield is an African-American.
But the State Department in its 2008 human rights report on Liberia said “mob violence and land disputes resulted in deaths, ritualistic killings, rapes and harsh and arbitrary arrest and detention” are persistent problems in Liberia
An estimated 3,500 Liberians are said to be on temporary immigration status, known as Deferred Enforced Departure. The immigrants have lived in the US since the 1990s when a civil war erupted in the tiny West African state of 3.5 million. The war ended in 2003 with the election of Mrs. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf as president. But except for a small section of Monrovia, the country remains without basic social services such as health, water and electricity.
Unemployment remains at more than 80 per cent according to the United Nations. Rights advocates say forced repatriation of thousands of Liberians on temporary immigration status threatens the stability the country enjoys. They said the end of remittances by Liberians working in the United States to their families abroad threatens the viability of the Liberian economy.
Dwanyan said the campaign will lobby the Obama administration to grant permanent residency to Liberians who have been allowed to work and live in the US for two decades.
US Rep. Erik Paulsen (R-MN) Third District, said the recent decision by the President Obama to allow Liberians who were facing eminent deportation to say for another twelve months was a right one. Paulsen said Liberia was not ready to absorb all of its citizens after years of war that left that country’s infrastructure in ruins. He promised to work with congressional and the Liberian community leaders to find solution to the Liberian immigration need.
Mrs. Abba Dolo, a Liberian on DED told the meeting that “the last twelve months have been very hard. I will love to go home with dignity; not be sent by force,” she said.