Open Letter to US Attorney General John Ashcroft
By Boima D. Gbelly
October 10, 2002
Dear Mr. Ashcroft:
Thanks to your government through your office as Attorney General for extending the staying of Liberians with temporary status here in the United States for one more year. Your gesture towards Liberians is a noble one but not without a healthy price tag. It has created or will create serious problems for us now and for years to come. This burdensome gesture if left unchecked, will create immense financial, social and other problems for Liberians and their families.
Whether status or not, Liberians are a part of this socio-economic and families development system of this great American Society. Your government values families' development as a pillar of this society.
The total yearly cost for the Deferred Enforced Departure ( DED ) program for Liberians was a one time twenty-five dollars ($25.00) fee. For the Temporary Protected Status (TPS ) now, the costs are:
Form I-821 $ 50.00
Fingerprint $50.00 Employment Card $120.00
Absolutely, no physical working age Liberian can live here in the U.S. without working - except that person is sick, too old or a criminal. DED cost was twenty-five dollars ($25.00 ) and TPS, a whopping two hundred twenty dollars ($ 220.00). Oh what a dilemma for Liberians!
According to the Department Of Justice Mission Statement, which states, "To enforce the law and defend the interests of the United States according to the laws, to provide Federal leadership in preventing and controlling crime, to seek just punishment for those guilty of unlawful behavior, to administer and enforce the nation's immigration laws fairly and effectively, and to ensure fair and impartial administration of justice for all American." The most fair and effective way of dealing with the Liberians' TPS status is to reduce the fees to make them affordable.
Secondly, we should be entitled to Federal and States Benefits since indeed we also pay towards these benefits through taxes. Example, Federal and State Education Grants and loans. Sir, the fact of the matter is that some Liberians may never return to Liberia and if they do not get the proper training and education that befit this progressive society, their future here will be a problem contributor.
We are all struggling to face this harsh global economic reality (Americans as well as Liberians ). Liberians work and pay taxes like any other person in the U.S. whether that Liberian has DED or TPS. Sir, the playing field seems not to be leveled. Just last year (2001) the U.S. Government had to give tax rebates to taxpayers just to stimulate this illing economy. My understanding is that the federal Tax Cut is one of the lowest in the history of the American Economy. These are all good programs intended to put this economy on good footing. It will do well if other progressive means are pursued to spur the economy instead of pressing the Liberians between a hard place and a rock.
Sir, if you want my pay stub to prove what I am saying, I will be delighted to send it. Many Liberians cannot boast about sending a dime back home (Liberia) now due to financial problems. Many Liberians will be out of status because they will not be able to fully comply with the monetary aspect of the TPS Program. Not that they will resist but simply because they do not have it. It is only a prediction. I think if a window of opportunity is created for Liberians, They will meet the system half way. In this case, a win-win solution. Except if there are other underlining factors like pushing Liberians out of status thereby leaving us at the mercy of unscrupulous business people that will take advantage of the situation to exploit it. I hope not!
I hope the U.S. could think about the plight of Liberians who cannot go back home now due to many factors. Staying here is not a choice. We do not want to be treated differently, but just do not make us carry all the burden of spurring this huge economic burden. If Liberians are about ten thousands here and they pay two hundred twenty dollars ($220.00 ), at the end; they will pay two million two hundred thousand dollars ($2,200,000.00 )!
Again, I do not blame you or your government for what happening to poor Liberians. For it is said that when your house doesn't sell you, street will not buy you. Until Liberians wakeup from their slumber and solve their common problems, they will encounter here and elsewhere many more of these problems. I will like to use one favorite slogan after 9/11, "united we stand, divided we fall" one day, many of us will return and rebuild Liberia. I believe in positive engagement. This is why I am bringing out these issues that you might have otherwise overlooked. Unethical behaviors can sometimes be prevented if financial and social issues are properly planned and executed.
Sir, if you have been following developments in Liberia, you will notice that during the fifties, sixties and early seventies, there was a smaller Liberian Community here as compared to now. We were politically stable and our economy was healthy. A lot of Liberians came here only for education and a short time visit. But all that change when our so-called progressives and purported democratic heroes started returning. Liberia, a once peaceful country became a living hell. Slogans like, "Our eyes are open, In the cause of the people, the struggle continues" were used by these democratic masters. Today, our eyes are shut and we don't know when they will open. Maybe never! Old poor Liberia - Fertile land but lying wasted. Strong energetic people but wanderers. Yes!, Liberia needed a change but in my mind, it landed in the wrong hands. These prophets are still around doing more harm than good. Their tongues sharper than razors and are gifted in deceiving the Liberian masses and the international community.
Finally, I will remind you sir the fee for TPS is high and request for a reduction.
I will close by saying there is light at the end of the dark tunnel.