The Senate voted for the National Defense Authorization Act of 2020 Tuesday. Its ostensible purpose is to fund the Defense Department, but it somehow gives permanent residency to thousands of Liberians. [Senate approves path to citizenship for Liberians facing deportation, Star Tribune, December 17, 2019]
Democratic Rhode Island Sen. Jack Reed, ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, snuck this provision in the final bill. It apparently met no opposition and only eight senators--four Republicans and four Democrats--voted against the final bill. This provision would give permanent residency and a pathway to citizenship to an estimated 4,000 Liberian nationals. Without this provision, the Liberians would be deported.
President Trump is expected to sign the NDAA into law when it comes before him. He has opposed allowing these Liberians to stay in the U.S. The Liberians are allowed to remain in America under the Deferred Enforced Departure program. Trump twice tried to end DED status for Liberians, most recently in March. In spite of his threats, he extended this protective status that same month. [Trump extended Liberians’ migrant status to 2020 but a lawsuit is coming anyway, by Chidinma Irene Nwoye, Quartz, March 29, 2019]
Liberia was one of the “s***hole countries” Trump famously referred to in his immigration comments in January 2018. Trump’s opinion at the time was clear: we shouldn’t take in migrants from Liberia and other s***hole countries.
If the NDAA is signed into law as is, we will give those migrants citizenship. This is not America First and it isn’t what voters wanted in 2016. Trump should take a second look at the bill and send it back to the Senate. An amnesty for Liberians has nothing to do with national defense.