Donald Trump on Tuesday ordered an end to special legal status for certain immigrants from Liberia, thousands of whom escaped the violence of war and have lived in the United States for decades.
They will now face the prospect of deportation, with the law that will end their protection coming into effect next year. The president cited improved conditions in the west African country.
“Liberia is no longer experiencing armed conflict and has made significant progress in restoring stability and democratic governance,” said a memorandum signed by Trump and released by the White House on Tuesday.
There had been trepidation among Liberian communities in the US because the deadline for the administration to extend their protections was due on 31 March and there had been an ominous silence from the White House. On Tuesday, Trump confirmed their worst fears.
Some Liberians have been eligible for either Temporary Protected Status or Deferred Enforced Departure since March 1991 due to civil war, fragile political and economic conditions and an Ebola virus outbreak in 2014 in Liberia, the memorandum said.
“Liberia has also concluded reconstruction from prior conflicts, which has contributed significantly to an environment that is able to handle adequately the return of its nationals,” Trump said.
A 12-month “wind-down” period starting 31 March 2018, will allow the Liberian government to prepare to reintegrate returning citizens and give time for affected Liberians to “make necessary arrangements”, said the memorandum, which was addressed to the US Department of Homeland Security.
The Liberian embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Homeland security did not immediately respond to a request for the number of immigrants who will be affected.
Trump previously included three other African countries – Chad, Somalia and Libya – among several nations whose citizens were blocked from entering the United States.
African politicians and diplomats blasted Trump in January after he described African countries, Haiti and El Salvador as “shitholes” during an Oval Office meeting.