FARGO — Liberians living in the Fargo-Moorhead area are on edge over fears they could be deported after the end of the month.
Last year, President Donald Trump ordered an end to the Deferred Enforced Departure or DED program, effective March 31 of this year. The program has allowed natives of the war-torn, poverty stricken West African country to live and work in the U.S. since 2007.
If the program ends, thousands of Liberians across the country who have DED status could be deported, including some of the estimated 3,500 to 4,000 living in the Fargo-Moorhead area.
Christian Harris is executive director of the New American Consortium for Wellness and Empowerment in Fargo, a nonprofit group he started to help new Americans in their new home. He said most Liberians won’t disclose their status, but he knows quite a few of them are affected by the looming deadline.
“A fright has taken place across the community. Everybody’s jittery about what’s next,” he said.
Harris came to the U.S. from Liberia in 2000, but won’t be affected by the president’s directive because he became a U.S. citizen 10 years after arriving. However, he said ending the DED program would split up many families who are well-established here.
“It would definitely create an impact in their lives because they have had their children here. A lot of the children are grown or going to school. Some of them own homes,” Harris said.
In addition, the local workforce would be negatively impacted, he said. Many Liberians work in local nursing homes, group homes, assisted living facilities and factories.
“If you’re going to eject them from those places, you’re going to create a huge gap in those areas as well,” he said.
About 50 members of Congress hope to convince the president to change his mind. Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Rep. Ilhan Omar, both of Minnesota, were among those who signed a letter this month, urging the president to extend the DED program.