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Liberians in US Face Possible Deportation

There is a deep sense of anxiety these days in the Liberian community in the United States. About 3,500 Liberians could face deportation come October 1, when a temporary protection status that allows them to stay here expires unless President Bush or Congress intervenes. The U.S. government contends Liberia is now a stable country and these migrants could return home.

Christiana Tah is an immigration lawyer in the Washington, D.C. area. To help us understand the plight of her fellow Liberians, Nightline’s Akwei Thompson spoke to her from her home in suburban Maryland.

She agrees with the U.S. government’s assertion that Liberia is much more stable now than it was at the time Liberians were put on the temporary protection status or TPS. She went on to explain that: “The Temporary Protection program came into being as an act of congress in 1990. It is for any country where the chaos, the carnage, the devastation is so great that a lot of the population is displaced. She further explained that a lot of the people who are displaced do not qualify for some of the regular programs or regular services like political asylum, family sponsorship and those other types of traditional programs…”

The TPS gave them permission to reside here legally and also to work, she said. They’ve built homes, educated their children, some have opened businesses and it would be difficult for them to just uproot themselves after this length of time and just pick up and go.

Ms. Tah also went on to say that, there were still other options: “…one of the options is another temporary program called Deferred Enforced Departure, DED, for short. This is a program that Liberians were on before…”

The Liberian lawyer said, even though she felt that Liberia would and should be willing to accept her people back, this question was best left for the Liberian government to answer.