Update on the Liberian DED lawsuit

March 28th, 2019

For Immediate Release

Contact: nekessa@undocublack.org, assefash@africans.us

UndocuBlack’s statement about hearing on preliminary injunction and other updates

Washington, DC - This afternoon an expedited hearing for a preliminary injunction on the case African Communities Together v. Trump was heard by U.S. District Court Judge Timothy S. Hillman. The lawsuit challenges the Trump Administration’s termination of Deferred Enforcement Departure (DED) for Liberians. DED is a humanitarian immigration program closely related to Temporary Protected Status (TPS), which DED beneficiaries, many of whom have resided in the U.S. for over 20 years, previously held.


However, in response to a memorandum from the White House earlier today extending the wind-down period for Liberian DED for an additional 12 months and advancing the termination date to March 31, 2020, the plaintiffs withdrew the motion for a preliminary injunction during today’s hearing and the lawsuit will continue in its normal course.  

The lawsuit is brought by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, Lawyers for Civil Rights Boston, and Dechert LLP  on behalf of fifteen Liberian immigrants and their family members with DED status, African Communities Together (ACT) and the UndocuBlack Network and was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts on March 8, 2019. It challenges President Trump’s March 27, 2018 decision to end DED for Liberians.

Ten attorneys general from California, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Virginia, and the District of Columbia, led by Attorney General Keith Ellison of Minnesota and Attorney General Maura Healey of Massachusetts, also filed an amicus brief on March 25, 2019 in support of the suit.


The plaintiffs welcomed the announcement, which will provide temporary relief to as many as 4,000 Liberian DED holders who faced the threat of imminent loss of legal status and deportation. However, they affirmed their commitment to carrying on the legal challenge to termination of DED and advocating for Congress to grant permanent status to DED holders, TPS recipients and DREAM-eligible immigrants.


“Our suspicions and doubts about why the Trump administration ended DED last year have not shifted. The president has repeatedly expressed disgust, contempt and outright prejudice against all immigrants and Black immigrants particularly.  Therefore, we will carry on with this suit and are determined to uncover what and how decisions were made to upend the lives of thousands of Liberians across the country.” Patrice Lawrence, Policy and Advocacy Director, UndocuBlack Network

“Despite the welcome news of the extension, there are still serious questions that need to be answered about why the White House terminated the program when and how they did, especially considering some of the statements in their own memo extending the deadline. And we're mindful that this is only a one-year extension- DED is still terminated. It took the concerted pressure from this lawsuit, members of Congress, and a wide range of community advocates to secure this win. We need to keep that pressure up.” Amaha Kassa, Executive Director, African Communities Together.

“While we are elated to see the extension of DED for another year; we will continue this fight through every avenue until Liberians are safe. We will see this lawsuit through the end and we will simultaneously fight in Congress to pass a bill, continue to uplift the voices of DED holders in the media and continue to build power on the streets. We are grateful to everyone who joined our call to action, amplified our demands, supported our leadership and believed in our vision.” Jonathan Jayes-Green, Co-Founder and Director, UndocuBlack Network

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UndocuBlack Network Celebrates Liberian DED win!

March 28th, 2018

For Immediate Release

Contact: nekessa@undocublack.org

Washington, DC - After living in fear of losing their families, homes, and communities, Liberians with Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) can breathe again today. The presidential decree ending their status on March 31, 2019 has been extended for one year to March 31, 2020. This gives Congress time to act, and Congress must act now.

Liberian DED holders have been at the center of this fight. For years, they have advocated for themselves and their families, they have bravely shared their personal stories, filed a lawsuit to protect themselves and continue to build power with each other.

Yatta Kiazolu who most recently testified at the Senate Judiciary hearing welcomes the news, “This is a very necessary win for our community. It was the right thing to do. We are still in the fight for a permanent solution because we still have lives after March 31st, 2020. We know when we fight we win! We are proud of our community and advocates for pushing for this extension.”

Patrice Lawrence, National Policy and Advocacy Director, UndocuBlack Network “The UndocuBlack Network has arduously fought for the integrity, dignity and humanity of all undocumented Black people.  This fight with our Liberian community has been long, hard and frustrating. Our work is personal and to that end we are very grateful for the support that our Liberian communities have gotten from our partners and allies.  This win, though incremental, minute and still a termination of status, must be recognized as the monumental power of the people. The president overturned his own decision, we have more might than we can even begin to imagine. I am proud to lead this fight with you all.”

Jonathan Jayes-Green, Co-Founder and Director, UndocuBlack Network

“We are elated to see the extension of DED for another year as we see it as a demonstration of the power we’ve built collectively. We have been fighting for this on every front: in Congress, in the media, in the courts and on the streets. And we are proud to see this win. We are also grateful to everyone who joined our call to action, amplified our demands, supported our leadership and believed in our vision. And we know that this is not the end. We need Congress to act now and pass permanent protections for DED holders and the rest of our community!”

Passing legislation is a first and essential step toward fixing our broken immigration system. Bills already introduced in the House (HR 6 — the Dream and Promise Act) and in the Senate (the Dream Act and the Secure Act) would give a path to permanent residence and citizenship to Liberians with DED, to immigrants with Temporary Protected Status, and to undocumented young people.

UndocuBlack continues to fight and advocate for all undocumented Black immigrants.

As Senate reintroduces bills: Dream Act and SECURE Act; UndocuBlack says, protect Dream eligible, TPS and DED immigrants without political games

March 26th, 2018

For Immediate Release

Contact: nekessa@undocublack.org


PROTECT DREAM ELIGIBLE, TPS AND DED IMMIGRANTS


Washington, DC- UndocuBlack Network acknowledges the introduction of the Dream Act of 2019  by Senators Dick Durbin and Lindsey Graham and the SECURE Act of 2019 in the Senate by Senators Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin.


Our communities are living in limbo and in crisis. We need Congress to act with expediency and offer protection to those most vulnerable in our communities. Many Black immigrants live in mixed-status families that are: Dream eligible, TPS and DED holders. These bills would offer our communities the security they need to thrive and prosper.


DACA, TPS and DED have offered reprieve from deportation and detention for so many in our community, only for them to go back into living in fear when this administration began its attack on the programs. Over the last three years, resources have been poured into attacking our communities.


Re-introducing these bills without harmful provisions is a statement against the myth that America needs a wall on the southern border. In five days, up to 4,000 Liberians will lose their DED protections. This is not a time for politics.


We look toward Dream-eligible, TPS and DED immigrants being safe from the snares of Immigrations Customs and Enforcement (ICE). We look forward to the expedited processing of work permits for DACA, TPS and DED holders. We look forward to an expansive Dream and Secure Act offering protection to more undocumented immigrants.

UndocuBlack continues to fight and advocate for all undocumented Black immigrants.

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UndocuBlack Network: The Dream and Promise Act will give protection to Dream-eligible, DED, and TPS immigrants

March 12th, 2019

For Immediate Release

Contact: Nekessa Opoti | nekessa@undocublack.org | (612) 460-0656

Important legislation to restore and expand immigration protections removed by Trump Administration

Washington, DC - This evening, the House under the leadership of Majority Leader, Nancy Pelosi, introduced the Dream and Promise Act with Reps. Lucille Roybal-Allard, Nydia Velazquez and Yvette D. Clarke, which expands the original DREAM Act, the American Promise Act, and the ASPIRE-TPS Act, from the 115th Congress.  This new legislation called the American Promise Act of 2019 has been entered into the 116th Congress with 203 original co-sponsors.

The UndocuBlack Network welcomes the Dream and Promise Act as a step toward restoring and expanding protection toward Dream-eligible immigrants as well as TPS and DED holders.

Below is the official statement from the UndocuBlack Network:

“This bill is a direct response to the attacks that our communities have been facing from the Trump administration, with the removals of protections for Dream eligible immigrants, TPS holders from 13 countries and Liberian holders of Deferred Enforced Departure (DED).  Make no mistake, this bill is just the beginning of what is owed to immigrant communities.  

In less than 20 days, DED for Liberians expires. We are co-plaintiffs with 15 Liberians suing the Trump administration for its racist termination of the humanitarian program, DED,  which has existed for over twenty years.

Our families and communities are in a constant panic, in fear that they will be targeted- detained and deported. It is within this context that we fight every day for all of us, and the introduction of the Dream and Promise Act is an extension of the legislative solution.

DACA, DED and TPS holders have been protected from deportation for years, and now many have had these protections stripped. We condemn this administration’s removal of protections, work permits and the destabilizing of our communities.  As such, we look forward to the expedient passage of this bill through the House without any added enforcement or poison pills that would further criminalize our communities.


There is a pro-immigrant momentum growing throughout this country and we are hopeful that the clean passage of this bill will prove it.


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LIBERIANS ON DED SUE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION

Families, Community Groups, and Civil Rights Organizations File Lawsuit to Protect Life-Saving Immigration Program

For Immediate Release
PRESS INQUIRIES: nekessa@undocublack.org

March 8, 2019

BOSTON, MA – The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and Lawyers for Civil Rights jointly filed a lawsuit today challenging President Donald Trump’s termination of humanitarian protection and relief for immigrants from Liberia. The lawsuit, the first of its kind in the country, was filed on behalf of African Communities Together (ACT), the UndocuBlack Network, and fifteen affected individuals, including Liberians raising U.S. citizen children. The complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts.

The lawsuit challenges President Trump’s March 27, 2018 decision to terminate Deferred Enforcement Departure (DED), a life-saving immigration program, marshalling evidence of discrimination based on race, ethnicity, and/or national origin in violation of the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) is a humanitarian program that protects approximately 4,000 Liberian immigrants in the United States. Over the past two decades, DED was renewed under both Republican and Democrat administrations because of environmental disasters and armed conflict in Liberia.

President Trump’s decision to terminate DED marked an abrupt departure from the practice established by previous administrations. Under DED, Liberians have been able to to live, work, and raise U.S. citizen children.

“The Trump administration’s decision to terminate Deferred Enforced Departure for Liberian immigrants was the direct result of intentional discrimination directed at the Liberian community, runs contrary to evidence, and violates the constitution. This lawsuit seeks to combat the discriminatory and xenophobic immigration policies driven by the Trump administration in order to keep Deferred Enforced Departure recipients and their families together,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “We are turning to the courts to ensure stability for Liberians all across our country who have contributed positively to their communities and our economy, many for over thirty years.”

“This is the latest discriminatory attack from the Trump Administration on longstanding immigration programs. First, they came for DACA recipients brought to this country as children. Then, they came for immigrants of color protected under TPS. Now, they come for Liberians. We will not stand idly by as immigrants of color are threatened with detention and deportation. We will not allow the Trump Administration to trample on our dignity and our constitutional rights. We will resist all forms of discrimination, and we will hold the Trump Administration accountable for attacking Liberian families,” said Iván Espinoza-Madrigal, the Executive Director of Lawyers for Civil Rights.

“At the UndocuBlack Network, we know how it feels to be discriminated against, underestimated even when justice is on our side,” said Patrice S. Lawrence National Policy & Advocacy Director of the UndocuBlack Network. “Consequently, we know how to fight back and win. President Trump set the termination date of the DED program for Liberians for March 31, 2019, negatively affecting up to 4,000 people we know and love. This means we now have days to ensure the stability of Liberians who have been in the country for almost 30 years. We join this lawsuit to challenge the discriminatory intentions of the Trump Administration, and to ensure that our Liberian communities can maintain the ability to thrive.”

"We are suing on behalf of our Liberian DED holder members who have been in this country for decades. They have renewed their status time and time again, been vetted time and time again, and have built their lives here in the United States," said Amaha Kassa, Executive Director of African Communities Together.

As it currently stands, DED is set to expire on March 31, 2019. The rescission of this program will result in the separation of families and harm thousands of Liberians across the country.

Read the full complaint here.

About the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law:

The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, was formed in 1963 at the request of President John F. Kennedy to involve the private bar in providing legal services to address racial discrimination.  Now in its 55th year, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is continuing its quest to “Move America Toward Justice.” The principal mission of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is to secure, through the rule of law, equal justice for all, particularly in the areas of criminal justice, fair housing and community development, economic justice, educational opportunities, and voting rights.

About Lawyers for Civil Rights:

Founded in 1968, Lawyers for Civil Rights (LCR) fosters equal opportunity and fights discrimination on behalf of people of color and immigrants. The organization engages in creative and courageous legal action, education, and advocacy in collaboration with law firms and community partners. LCR filed the first lawsuits in the country against the Trump Administration to protect sanctuary cities; to save TPS on behalf of Central American immigrants; and to block immigration arrests in courthouses. For more information, visit www.lawyersforcivilrights.org.



DED holder Yatta Kiazolu Testifies at House Judiciary Committee “I am here for all the working class immigrants on DED, TPS, and are also DREAM eligible.”

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 6th, 2019

For press inquiries: Nekessa Opoti nekessa@undocublack.org | (612) 460-0656

Chairman Nadler, Ranking Member Collins, and members of this committee  thank you for this opportunity.

My name is Yatta Kiazolu, I am 28 years old and I am a beneficiary of Deferred Enforced Departure also known as DED. In addition, I am a PhD Candidate in the Department of History at UCLA with plans to graduate by Fall 2019. After 22 years in the U.S., however, 25 days from now Liberian DED will end and my entire life will be interrupted. I have only visited Liberia once as a toddler and I have never lived in the country.

I am here today to appeal to Congress to create a permanent solution on behalf of myself and the thousands of Liberians who have rebuilt their lives here in the United States.

I was born Botswana to Liberian national parents and arrived in the U.S. at 6 years old in 1997.  My father worked as a professor at the University of Botswana for the United Nations, while my mother was a stay-at-home parent and later worked as a teacher at a local school. We had no other family in Botswana.
   
When my parents made an attempt to move back to Liberia after the first civil war,  in fear of my safety, my mother sent me to live in Georgia with my grandmother, while they assessed the situation. Living with my grandmother in the States provided me security and stability I otherwise would not have known because the fragile political climate soon descended into a second civil war. My mother joined me soon after. In fact, one of my fondest memories at this age was being in a Little League in Decatur, GA where my cousins and I made up almost the entire team.

I have been a recipient of both TPS and DED. If DACA had not been rescinded it is possible that I would have been a Dreamer, as well. The protection of these relief programs allowed me to maintain a stable and healthy life, despite living deadline to deadline.The ability to attend college and graduate from Delaware State University with honors helped me discover my passion for history and higher education. In undergrad, I was an active member of my campus community leading student organizations, joined the public service sorority Delta Sigma Theta, and even completed internships at congressional local offices.

DED made it possible for me to leave the U.S. in 2012, through Advanced Parole, for the first time since my arrival, to travel to South Africa. I participated in the UC Office of the President-HBCU Initiative.  I was thrilled to be able to travel freely with my classmates for once. This program exposed me to graduate education and is the reason I decided to pursue my doctorate in history at UCLA. On campus, I have been a strong advocate of student support, led numerous diversity and inclusion initiatives, and worked as a teaching assistant for undergraduate courses. In my local community, I work to support student access to higher education through tutoring and working as an adjunct instructor.

Nothing I have accomplished thus far would be possible without the unwavering support of my family, who are here with me today. I am here because of the love and labor of my mother, grandmother, and aunties who, when I first arrived, were all working class Black immigrant women. They worked jobs that required them to stand on their feet for sometimes over 10 hours a day in order to protect me and offer me space to imagine, dream, and explore my world as a child should.  Their resilience, hope, and lessons about goodwill inspire my graduate research about histories of Black women’s political activism . My grandmother used to say “When you do good, you don’t do it for yourself, you do it for God.”[pause] And with that philosophy as my personal mantra, though the majority of my family are now permanent residents and U.S. citizens, I am here for all the working class immigrants on DED, TPS, and are also DREAM eligible. I am here for all young people like myself who have anxiety about their futures.

If Congress allows DED to end in 25 days, I do not know what will happen to me. My mother loses sleep at night worrying about me. I want to graduate this year and begin my career in higher education. I am incredibly passionate about teaching history, public history programming, and student mentorship. Through various roles in the classroom over the last five years, I have been invested in the academic and personal achievement of over 200 students, especially those who are historically underrepresented. As a product of dedicated advocates, I want to be able to give back, especially to students who have limited access to higher education. To this end, it is my greatest appeal that Congress create a permanent path to citizenship for DED and similar programs like DACA and TPS.

Thank you for your time,

Yatta Kiazolu



Directly Impacted Immigrant Communities Reject Backroom Dealmaking

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: January 23, 2019

Contact: Jasmine Nazarett, jnazarett@communitychangeaction.org, 954-471-9080; Sheridan Aguirre, sheridan@unitedwedream.org, 202-793-2267; Yesenia Padilla, SBCC,  yesenia@alliancesd.org, 415-269-3178; Nekessa Opoti, UndocuBlack Network, nekessa@undocublack.org,  612-460-0656

WASHINGTON, DC--After news outlets reported that some “immigrant rights groups” would be meeting with President Trump, Vice President Pence and Senior Advisor Jared Kushner on Thursday to discuss the Trump-McConnell deal, national networks representing immigrant rights groups across the country and along the Southern Border, FIRM Action, United We Dream, UndocuBlack Network and the Southern Border Communities Coalition issued the following statement in response:

“The groups negotiating behind the backs of immigrant communities don’t speak for the people actually affected by these policies. For those of us who represent and are accountable to immigrant communities helping Trump to advance his racist agenda is unconscionable.

“One of the Trump administration’s primary goals is to deport and destroy immigrant and refugee communities. Donald Trump took protections away from over one million people by ending the DACA and TPS programs, tear gassed children and put more than 800,000 federal workers plus an unknown number of government contractors out of work. In response to a crisis Trump created, they offered temporary, harmful solutions that walk back protections for children, families and further fund and militarize our borders.

“Now, a group of so-called ‘immigration advocates’ have agreed to serve as the White House’s puppets and help them advance their trojan horse deal. Groups actually representing immigrant and southern border communities are united in calling on Trump and Congress to reopen the government and shut down the racist wall. Together, we will continue to stand with immigrants and will fiercely defend our communities like we’ve been doing for decades.”


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UndocuBlack Network Dismisses Trump’s Disingenuous Deal

January 19th, 2018

For Immediate Release

Contact: nekessa@undocublack.org; 612-460-0656

Washington, DC - President Donald Trump is offering an immoral and shady deal to Congress. In exchange for his pet project, the wall, Trump is proposing that the Democrats give him $5.7 billion.

As part of this deal, Trump proposed that Congress eviscerate asylum and due process policies; increase border agents and immigration judges; and institute unspecified border technology. As a  distraction, he has also proposed to temporarily extend protections for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders.

Immigrants continue to face uncertainty, and federal workers have not been paid for almost a month because this administration refuses to do its job. Instead of quickly re-opening the government, they continue to keep the country hostage.

UndocuBlack Network’s National Policy Director Patrice Lawrence says, “This phantom deal is a non-starter because it still includes a wall on the southern border.  Secondly, the proposal suggests long-term, dangerous changes to asylum provisions, immigration court, due process and the immigration system at large. Additionally, “humanitarian assistance” is likely code for more detention centers, exasperating harmful family separation policies.  Finally, the three-year extension for DACA and TPS is a slap in the face for our communities whose protections the Trump administration stole in the first place.”


Trump’s “deal” shows that his power is being threatened. Trump and his administration continue to create chaos: DACA, TPS, government shutdown, the Muslim Ban, asylum restrictions and this #TrumpShutdown are all his manufactured crises.

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UndocuBlack Network (UBN) is a multigenerational network of formerly and currently undocumented Black people that fosters kinships, facilitates access to resources and contributes to transforming the realities of our people, so we are thriving and living our fullest lives.