I'm quoted in Sunday's New York Times as the sourpuss amidst what the headline says are "Liberians in New York ‘Jubilant’ at Expulsion Reprieve."
Why would I say that Pres. Obama made a mistake in halting an order for the Liberians to go back home to a country of poverty and high unemployment? The Times quoted me fairly with a two-paragraph explanation, but I need more space to explain why doing something compassionate for these particular Liberians ends up being the opposite of compassionate overall.
First, let's look at what the Times says are the facts of the case:
Special residency and employment rights for Liberians were first granted in 1991 as civil war tore apart their country. Thousands fled their homeland and moved to the United States.
That's right, this started 18 years ago! TPS (Temporary Protected Status) is something the President can give to illegal aliens in the United States, tourists and other legal temporary visitors when their country is suddenly in an uproar.
The program was extended or renewed several times. But after the end of the civil war in 2003, and elections in 2005, the United States government decided it was time to lift the special allowance, known as Temporary Protected Status.
Wow, what an incredible gift the United States gave to these Liberians, allowing them to live and work here during 12 years of civil war. But once the war was over in 2003, the reason for TPS was gone. Uh, oh, what's this . . . . .
In 2007, President George W. Bush granted an 18-month extension, which federal officials said would be the last one.
Anybody who has raised children, recognizes the problem of the permissive parent . . . . "OK, one more cartoon, but then you have to go bed. . . . . OK, the next one after this. . . . . I really mean it this time, really!"
Once Mr. Obama took office, the Liberians and open-borders groups have been waging a national campaign through dozens of heart-tugging human interest stories in newspapers. Their argument is that because the Liberians were allowed to stay so long, they have put down roots and it would be too traumatic for them to take their families back to a poor country with high unemployment. One Liberian leader in New York said it would create post-traumatic syndrome.
So this weekend, Pres. Obama gave the Liberians another 12 months to live and work here -- extending to 7 years after the end of the civil war which had been the reason for TPS in the first place.
And you can be sure that the aim has not been that maybe Liberia will be a better destination a year from now. No, here's what the Times says:
Now that the community has been granted another reprieve, its leaders say they will press Congress to provide Liberian exiles with an expedited path to citizenship.
That's right, nobody has any intention of ever going back home. The business about waiting for their home country to stabilize apparently has mostly been a ruse for all this time. The Times quotes Liberians under TPS saying that if Pres. Obama had not given them another extension they would have become illegal aliens rather than obey the law and go back to Liberia. The Times said that tens of thousands of Liberians are illegal aliens here outside TPS, not having bothered to sign up for the last extension. They are all waiting on the amnesty that Mr. Obama continues to promise to all illegal aliens.
However, that amnesty is not going to come easy because of groups like NumbersUSA, the Times says:
But (the Liberians) campaign (for U.S. citizenship) will most likely run up against strong opposition, particularly from groups seeking tighter restrictions on immigration.
Roy Beck, executive director of NumbersUSA, a public policy group that seeks to reduce immigration, said that Temporary Protected Status was intended to provide relief to populations during acute emergencies.
In an e-mail message, he said that any 'heart-tugging personal stories of separation' were 'the unavoidable trade-off for having accepted America’s hospitality for so long.'
Sounds a little hard-hearted to me. The Scrooge of Liberia.
But large principles are at stake here.
Let's start with questions that should always be answered before extending TPS or DED (Delayed Extended Departure):
- Do the LIberians face civil war when they return?
- Is Liberia in the middle of a national natural disaster or in the close wake of it?
- Has something temporary just occurred or is it occurring that makes Liberia especially unable to provide civil order for its inhabitants, in a way that is greatly different than normal?
It appears that the answer is NO to all the questions. Based on the rules of the TPS program that should mean that Liberians ought to be moving back home (and probably should have returned years ago).
The purpose of TPS or DED is to respond to acute and massive emergencies to give the home country a bit of a breather to get things back in order.
The purpose is not to protect a foreign country's traveling citizens from their home country's poverty, hardship, inconvenience, poor infrastructure, etc. At least 5 billion people live in those circumstances every day. The fact that a home country has high unemployment just doesn't distinguish it for purposes of special privileges to its citizens who happen to be in this country.
I have no doubt that most departing Liberians will experience some hardship upon returning to their homeland, or that there are heart-tugging personal stories of separation especially for many children as they return with their parents to their parents' homeland which is not really their own. This is the unavoidable trade off for having accepted America's hospitality for so long.
THE FIRST COMPASSIONATE RESULT OF GOING BACK HOME
Although going home may not be financially advantageous to the returning Liberians, it is likely to be of immense benefit to Liberia.
My experience with Liberians here in Virginia has been that they come from an impressively educated, skilled and able class (probably greatly augmented during their stay in the U.S.). They possess the very attributes that their country desperately needs to rebuild and create a society of much broader well-being for the masses who will never have a chance to pursue life anywhere but Liberia.
We do not help countries get back on their feet by enticing many of their most energetic, creative and educated citizens to live in our country.
THE SECOND COMPASSIONATE RESULT OF GOING BACK HOME
The point of TPS is that people WILL return home as soon as the extraordinary conditions triggering TPS are past. Of course, the point of TPS has almost never been honored in practice. There has rarely been any "T" in TPS.
Because of the lack of integrity in the program, TPS no longer allows our country to respond quickly to an emergency need.
Look at the lack of response to Haitian visitors and illegal aliens in this country when Haiti was devastated by a hurricane recently. It seems to me that that was precisely a situation that warranted granting TPS. But we didn't. Why? I would say that it was because the Liberians were still here -- even more so, because hundreds of thousands of Central Americans were still here so very many years after the civil wars that triggered the first TPS and even after the later natural disasters.
Because President Bush created DED status in order to avoid making the tough decision, required by the law, to end TPS when in-country circumstances had changed, nobody believes that a new TPS will be anything but permanent.
If Haitians are given TPS, the fear is that we would soon see more life-threatening flotillas leaving Haiti for here, and a general state of disorder on our Florida shores.
LET'S HAVE MORE & SHORTER TPS FOR MORE PEOPLE
I favor ending temporary stays for Liberians and Central Americans to establish that our TPS system has integrity.
Once we show TPS has integrity, the United States can be much more generous in granting far more (but far shorter) temporary delays of departure to far more people in response to serious short-term disruptions in foreign countries in the future.
But Pres. Obama has imitated Pres. Bush once again in the immigration field. His action this weekend has left TPS stained and impotent.
Nonetheless, I give Pres. Obama credit for at least refusing to allow the 12-month extension to be used by the tens of thousands of Liberians who have chosen in recent years to live and work in the U.S. illegally rather than register with the TPS/DED program.
THE THIRD COMPASSIONATE RESULT OF GOING BACK HOME
The Central Americans and Liberians who have refused to go home -- and our government has refused to make them go home -- after their countries were past civil wars and immediate natural disasters are holding U.S. jobs that would otherwise be filled by currently unemployed Americans. Creating a certain irony, unemployed Americans disproportionately are citizens of Latin American and African origin.
We have a job shortage in this country. If we are a national community that shows compassion for the most unfortunate of our community, those jobs should not be taken and given to foreign citizens except under exceptional circumstances.
ROY BECK is Founder & CEO of NumbersUSA
Updated: Wed, May 31st 2017 @ 2:47pm EDT