Linda Clark has lived in Minnesota for 19 years but faces deportation to Liberia by the end of March.
“I’ve built a home here,” Clark said Tuesday at an immigration discussion hosted by U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar. “I’ve worked and paid my taxes and just lived a normal life.”
Clark has stayed in the U.S. under the Deferred Enforced Departure program, which is set to expire soon. President Donald Trump approved a one-year reprieve last year.
The group convened “to talk about the deep pain and suffering this administration is bringing to immigrants,” said Omar, a Minneapolis Democrat. She cited the travel ban affecting people from several majority-Muslim countries, the end to protections for so-called Dreamers who were brought into the country illegally as children, and family separations at the U.S.-Mexico border.
“It’s important for us to speak to that and make sure we are collectively fighting to defeat it,” Omar said. “The Trump administration has ended crucial protections for immigrants.”
She drew attention to her background as a refugee from Somalia and said there’s a connection between U.S. interventions in other countries and mass migration, arguing that “if we engaged in foreign affairs in different ways, the domestic policies that we have would look a little different.”
Clark said she wants the president to grant Liberians in her position permanent residence, noting that they’ve contributed to the economy. Community organizer Alfreda Daniels rubbed Clark’s back in a sympathetic gesture.
“This administration has decided to terminate a program that is a lifeline for all these people,” said Daniels, of the Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation, the umbrella organization of Minneapolis-area labor unions.
The Trump administration said last year that it was wrapping up the Deferred Enforced Departure program with a yearlong “orderly transition.” A memo on its ending said, “Liberia is no longer experiencing armed conflict and has made significant progress in restoring stability and democratic governance.”
At Tuesday’s event, student Jackie Mendoza lamented the rollback of protections for her and other young immigrants.
“We should worry about homework, grades and classes,” said Mendoza, who attends Hiawatha Collegiate High School. “But instead I worry about my future constantly.”
The Trump administration has said it ended the program in the face of potential court challenges.
Micaela Schuneman, director of refugee services at the International Institute of Minnesota, raised concern about the White House dropping the ceiling on the number of refugees from about 70,000 a year to 30,000, and still admitting far fewer refugees than those limits. She said the state resettled just 153 refugees so far this fiscal year.