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4,000 Liberians Must Leave U.S.


President Trump made a decision this past week that will have a profound effect on the lives of about 4,000 Liberian immigrants. They've taken refuge in the U.S. from their war-torn country since the 1990s. Now Trump has given them up to a year to pack up and return to Liberia or risk being deported. NPR's Richard Gonzales reports.

RICHARD GONZALES, BYLINE: Pastor Moses Punni fled Liberia as a teenager three decades ago. For the past 17 years, he's lived in Minnesota.

MOSES PUNNI: I no nowhere home. I left home as a young kid. There is no home to return to.

GONZALES: He was among thousands of Liberians who fled a brutal civil war in their country under a program established by President Clinton. It's called Deferred Enforcement Departure and allows Liberian immigrants to live and work in the U.S., but it was supposed to be temporary. In a presidential memo, Trump says Liberia is no longer experiencing armed conflict and has made significant progress in restoring stability and democratic governance.

JESSICA VAUGHAN: It's true. This program should have been ended a long time ago. In fact, I question whether it was really necessary to create the status at all.

GONZALES: Jessica Vaughan is the director of policy studies at the D.C.-based Center for Immigration Studies, which advocates for immigration limits. She says the president is giving Liberians ample time to settle their affairs before they must return to Liberia in a year.

VAUGHAN: That wasn't necessary, but that's a very generous period of time to do it.

GONZALES: But Liberian immigrants say Trump's decision will divide families and shutter businesses owned by people who now have stable lives here.

CAROLINE GRIMES: To uproot us out of the United States and send us back to Liberia - it's like being a refugee all over again.

GONZALES: Caroline Grimes is a Minnesota nurse in her 50s. She trained in the United States after arriving nearly two decades ago. Grimes had hoped that President Trump would extend the program as Presidents Bush and Obama did repeatedly.

GRIMES: There's nothing temporary about 18 to 20 years.

GONZALES: This isn't the only program of its kind that Trump is ending. In recent months, Trump has taken away something called Temporary Protected Status for immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Sudan. In each case, he said that conditions in those countries have improved enough to allow people to return home. Richard Gonzales, NPR News.


Richard Gonzales is NPR's National Desk Correspondent based in San Francisco. Along with covering the daily news of region, Gonzales' reporting has included medical marijuana, gay marriage, drive-by shootings, Jerry Brown, Willie Brown, the U.S. Ninth Circuit, the California State Supreme Court and any other legal, political, or social development occurring in Northern California relevant to the rest of the country.
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