Four thousand Liberian holders of Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) status and their roughly 4,000 U.S. citizen children may have to leave the United States because of the decision in African Communities Together v. Trump. Judge Timothy S. Hillman of the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts decided that the Court lacked the authority to compel President Donald Trump to act to extend DED for those currently in that status.

DED status (formerly known as Extended Voluntary Departure), like Temporary Protected Status (TPS), is granted to individuals in the United States who cannot return to their home countries because of political or civil conflict or natural disasters. A major difference is that TPS was created by Congress and DHS was given discretion to grant, extend or terminate the status. DED is a Presidential grant. Liberia is the only country that currently has DED status although it has been granted to other countries in the past.

In response to a long period of civil war in Liberia, President George W. Bush in 2007 granted DED to Liberians when their TPS expired. Since then, Liberian DED was continually extended until March 31, 2018, when it was terminated by President Trump and Liberians received a 12-month wind-down period until March 31, 2019. In response, the African Communities lawsuit was filed seeking injunctive relief. Next, President Trump reconsidered and extended the wind-down period until March 30, 2020. In court, the plaintiffs argued that there is still reason to extend DED because of political instability and Ebola. They argued that eliminating DED now would hurt local communities and particularly the health care industry that employs many Liberians. They further argued that the government’s decision was based on discriminatory animus – reminiscent of arguments in the TPS and DACA cases.

There has been a legislative response but to date no resolution. Representative David Cicilline (D-RI) introduced the Liberian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act of 2019 in March. The bill would provide legal permanent residence to Liberians who have been living in the U.S. in DED status since 2014. Relief for Liberians was also included in H.R. 6, the American Dream and Promise Act of 2019 that passed in the House.

Reports are that the Liberian plaintiffs are considering an appeal.

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Photo of Forrest G. Read IV Forrest G. Read IV

Forrest Read is a Principal in the Raleigh, North Carolina, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. He has extensive experience in both business immigration law and employment law and has particular focus in legal issues in graduate medical education (GME).

Mr. Read’s immigration practice focuses on assisting employers in obtaining employment-based nonimmigrant visas (e.g., H-1B, L, O, TN) for foreign national employees and work-related immigrant (green card) visas, including PERM Labor Certifications, and advising employers on compliance with U.S. immigration laws and regulations. He has broad experience in advising large, mid-size and small employers on their various immigration needs and developing strategies to help them navigate through complex immigration issues. He also has particular experience in counseling employers in the health care industry and addressing immigration-related issues that arise for their broad range of health care professional employees (including advising on and obtaining employment authorization for medical residents and fellows and obtaining J-1 visa waivers for foreign national physicians completing their medical training in the United States). His immigration practice also includes defending employers in connection with Department of Labor H-1B and H-2B investigations.

Mr. Read’s employment law experience includes representing management, particularly academic medical centers in the GME context, in a wide array of workplace disputes and litigation before federal and state courts and administrative agencies, including matters related to discrimination, retaliation, harassment, disability, family and medical leave, various wage and hour issues, contracts, and intentional torts. He advises academic medical centers on the interplay between applicable academic law and employment law and the ramifications of what are divergent legal requirements and standards. Mr. Read also provides counsel with respect to the legal impact of competency standards for residents and trainees in GME, including situations involving discipline, remediation, and dismissal. He provides advice and guidance in the peer review process, including provision of verification and assessment of training in response to third party inquiries.

As a member of the Firm’s Corporate Diversity Counseling group, Mr. Read also has experience in providing assessments and making recommendations to corporate and institutional clients with respect to diversity and inclusion policies and initiatives, conducting related internal investigations, and shaping, developing and enforcing effective policies and initiatives to ensure consistency with client values and in furtherance of business goals and objectives.