African Communities Together (ACT) and its attorneys, Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law have vehemently vowed to appeal a Boston federal district court dismissal of their Liberian Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) lawsuit against President Trump, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Kevin McAleenan, acting Secretary of Homeland Security. At issue in the case filed by ACT, community organizations and 15 Liberian DED holders is whether President Trump’s decision to terminate the DED program is unlawful?
The plaintiffs believe the president’s decision to end the program is entrenched in racism and racial hostility rather than current and existing conditions in Liberia therefore, it is unconstitutional violating the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution.
Lawyers for the defendants argued that the DED program exists under the president’s discretion. Therefore the court lacks jurisdiction and cannot compel the president to extend DED for Liberians.
They also contend that Organizational Plaintiffs including Act, UndocuBlack Network, Lawyers for Civil Rights and Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law lack Article 111 standing to challenge President Trump’s termination of the program. “Article III of the Constitution limits federal courts’ jurisdiction to certain ‘Cases’ and ‘Controversies.’”
On October 25, Judge Timothy S. Hillman of the US District Court of Massachusetts agreed with the defendants subsequently granting motions to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction and Failure to State a Claim.
“While the Court finds that the Plaintiffs have suffered an injury in fact, the Court unfortunately sees no way to redress that injury,” Judge Hillman wrote in his ruling siding with the defendants. “In order to renew DED, the President must take affirmative action, and this Court cannot compel the President to take that action under the circumstances of this case. Thus, the Court grants Defendants’ motion to dismiss,” the Judge noted. But plaintiffs’ attorneys believe Judge Hillman’s decision to dismiss the lawsuit is flawed.
“We disagree with the court’s ruling which is why we are filing an appeal,” Maryum Jordan, Counsel, Special Litigation and Advocacy Project, Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law said in her response to an inquiry seeking comment for this story
“The Court found that both the individual and organizational plaintiffs do not have Article III standing because the Court has no power to provide them relief related to the termination of DED. This conclusion is the basis of our appeal,” Ms Jordan concluded.
Amaha Kassa, executive director of ACT said though they were disappointed by the judges’ ruling, they are glad to see the judge found that clearly Liberians are harmed by terminating the DED. Mr. Kassa is encouraged the judge also found that individual plaintiffs and the organizations that sued on their behalf are able to sue.
“What we believe is that the ruling was a mistake. We believe that particularly in a case where a decision to terminate DED was based on illegitimate, illegal and discriminatory reasons, that a judge can order that that termination decision be reversed,” Mr. Kassa insisted in his reaction to Judge Hillman’s ruling.
“So that’s what we are asking for, that’s what we’ve been asking for since the beginning. We believe the court has the power to grant that and our plan is to appeal. We are preparing an appeal to take up that issue and we are committed to continuing to fight for the protection of Liberian DED holders,”
As the deadline to end DED for Liberians slowly approaches, anxiety and uncertainty looms in Staten Island, New York home to thousands of Liberians, said Jennifer Gray-Brumskine a Liberian immigrant (now a US citizen) and chair of the board of directors for the Staten Island Liberian Community Association.
“These people have never been more nervous in their lives, everyone is so scared,” Gray-Brumskine said in an interview.” Adding, ‘Instead of showing sensitivity to the needs of my community and an appreciation for the contributions we have made to this country, President Trump has chosen to attack us.’
If the termination is enforced in March next year it will cause irreparable harm, separating families. Children born in America by Liberians will lose their parents if deported; people will lose their homes that they have worked hard to pay for all these years in America. And of course, the Liberian economy cannot support these people if they are sent back home.
Currently, Liberia is the only country entitled for DED benefits, according to immigrationforum.org It was former President George W. Bush who granted DED to approximately 10, 000 Liberians in the United States after their Temporary Protected Status (TPS) expired in 2007.
Former President Obama extended the program in September, 2016 after determining that ‘there are compelling foreign policy reasons’ for an extension.
Though the actual number of Liberian DED holders is unclear, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services says there are an estimated 3,600 Liberian DED holders and about 840 with work permit or approved employment authorization in the U.S.