On March 31, according to a decision President Trump made last year, 4,000 Liberians who have lived and worked in the U.S. since 1999 will lose their legal status.
One lawsuit, African Communities Together v. Trump, filed in a federal district court on Friday in Massachusetts is the first to challenge that decision, which lawyers are calling racist.
The administration “immediately started to roll back critical protections in humanitarian aid programs” after Trump’s reported comments about Haiti and African nations being “sh**hole countries,” said Dorian Spence, director of special litigation and advocacy for the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law representing the Liberians and organizations bringing the lawsuit.
The decision to end Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) was “a manifestation of those bigoted views,” Spence said to Bloomberg Law.
Trump has “ridiculed and mocked African people for purportedly living in huts,” stoked “unreasonable fear” about “false claims of attacks on white farmers in South Africa,” and has spoken about Namibia, “a country that does not exist,” said Ivan Espinoza-Madrigal, executive director of Lawyers for Civil Rights, which also is providing legal counsel.
U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips and U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minneapolis are sponsoring legislation that offers Liberians a path to American citizenship while staying in the U.S.
Senators Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith have already supported a bill.
Trump, who attacked TPS and DACA status for Black and Brown immigrants from countries like Haiti, Sudan, South Sudan, Somalia, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Nepal, wants to send Black immigrants back to Africa. Several of the countries also have deportation deadlines this spring and summer.
In the lawsuit, the lawyers buck Trump’s claim that conditions in Liberia have improved. They cite the Liberian economy is “recovering from armed conflicts as well as the devastation of resources caused by the outbreak of the Ebola epidemic.” They continued: the country is “unable to manage the safe return of thousands of its nationals.”
“We describe it as a crisis in the Liberian community. … People are really, really afraid,” said Erasmus Williams, chairman of the Liberian Immigration Coalition.
Liberia was founded in 1882 as a part of the first “Back to Africa” movement to satisfy the concerns whites had with freed Blacks living alongside them.
“Everything that we have in our country, from constitution to policy, came from the United States,” Williams said of Liberia.
“You’d have to be pretty historically illiterate not to recognize a special relationship between the U.S. and Liberia,” said historian Nicholas Guyatt of the University of Cambridge in England.
According to Pew Research, the Black African immigrant population more than doubled, from 574,000 to 1.6 million between 2000 and 2016.
While Trump implies that immigrants are a drain on the taxpayers and aren’t skilled, African immigrants have the highest percentage of advanced degrees among immigrants, are employed at a higher rate than African-Americans and primarily work in business, science and service industries.