Sorry Charlie, They Won't Be Coming After
By Massa-Amelia Washington
The joy was endemic contaminating everyone in the crowd of anxious Liberians and well-wishers of Liberia gathered outside across from the White House on the evening of September 19, as Black Congressional representatives and Rep. Patrick Kennedy of Rhode Island wasted the good news.
Liberians seeking refuge in the United States on the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) will not be deported after all. Hence, a well-planned evening of candlelight vigil to plead and petition President Bill Clinton against the deportation of Liberians in fact ended a celebration of victory for the petitioners.
After a marathon of lobbying efforts on the part of Liberian organizations and friends of Liberia, President Clinton has endorsed Deferred Enforced Departure (DED), allowing an estimated 15,000 Liberians refugees, additional one year legal residence in the U.S. In a memorandum to Attorney General Janet Reno, President Clinton said: "Although the civil war in Liberia ended in 1996 and conditions have improved such that a further extension of Temporary Protected Status is no longer warranted, the political and economic situation continues to be fragile... there are compelling foreign policy reasons not to deport these Liberians at this time..."
The president further said: "Pursuant to my constitutional authority to conduct the foreign relations of the United States, I have determined that it is in the foreign policy interest of the United States to defer for 1 year the deportation of any Liberian national who is present in the United States as of September 29, 1999."
It is a victory made possible through the collective efforts of Liberians in the US, supported by members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), Rep. Patrick Kennedy, Sen. Jack Reed, and other true friends of Liberia, who work endlessly and tirelessly to ensure that uncle Sam's step children are treated fairly and with dignity. But real victory will be ensured if current bills HR919 and S656 - pending before the House and Senate to grant Liberians permanent residence status, are approved.
Frankly, Liberians have every reason to be ecstatic over this latest development, since immigration status of Liberians abroad, is but one of many impurities off a list of plagues, which descended upon this group of West Africans since the outbreak of civil war on December 24, 1989. According to reports from the offices of the US Attorney General Janet Reno in July this year, deportation proceeding for Liberians on TPS was scheduled to have commenced by September 28, following the official termination of the program.
Imagine the all round effect, had these number of refugees including, children (some of whom know Liberia only by name) and the elderly, been shooed like geese back to a place where they fled for fear of their lives not so long ago, a place of which they now hold nothing but bad memories and of which many still have nightmares.
Nightmares in which the bellies of pregnant women are split open and the fetuses extracted and destroyed. Nightmares in which mothers and daughters are raped while their husbands and fathers watch helplessly petrify. Nightmares of wounded and starving babies crying and sucking onto the breasts of their dead mothers, and nightmares of young boys drugged and turned into killing machines so that a handful of spineless pundits may satisfy their selfish desires.
Imagine then the fear and mass confusion that could have overcome these individuals upon their arrived in Taylorland. Already by implication Liberians residing outside of the country are indicted for "spreading false rumors against the government." (Remember presidential comments and accusations that Liberians living abroad are the ones blocking international aid to the country by speaking lies about the government?) Lies that there is no electricity and water supply in Liberia except at the homes of Taylor and his band of merry men, when in fact every home enjoys 24 hours service of these commodities. Lies that security for residents is an illusion because, ex-fighters who were neither rehabilitated nor trained, now form the core of security officers, when to the contrary, everyone enjoys maximum peace and security because state security personnel are all trained, and well disciplined. Yes, lies that there are less Liberian children attending school today than has ever been in the history of the nation due to insufficient schools, and lack of instructional materials. And even more lies that the public health system is so pathetic that so-called health facility lack the commonest material such as gauze. Imagine then these Liberians who have maliciously misrepresented the situation back home for the sole purpose of obtaining that thing called "Green Card", now having to face their accusers
Liberians on TPS and asylum comprise opposition politicians, ex-service men, student leaders, journalists, and former members of disbanded factions and ordinary people who also experienced persecution because of their ethnic origin. The Taylor government has from time to time made pronouncements with the intent, it says to encourage exiled Liberians to return home, often using the August 97 elections and its outcome as a spring broad to highlight to the world what 'great democracy' Liberia has.
The President's latest appeal was made last Tuesday in which he asked Liberians to stop harboring fears about reconciliation and the due process of law and instead return home to contribute towards the reconstruction of the nation. Many Liberians however, doubt government's sincerity to improve conditions in the country due to the way it continues to unconstitutionally and ruthlessly deal with situations especially, involving persons challenging its policy and so-called troublemakers. The fact that it also sought the closure of refugee camps in the sub-region because "dissidents Liberians" reside in these areas, also raises brows.
No exaggerating than what fate awaited the majority if not all of these 15,000 Liberians had they been deported to Liberia. Well, as the trite expression goes "man proposes but God disposes," and since Bill has decided otherwise, just forget it Charlie, cuz September is sure not your month.
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