Trump gives Liberian immigrants 1 year to leave or face deportation

Some of the Liberian immigrants have been in the U.S. for decades.

It's the latest example of Trump ending a program that's protected tens of thousands of immigrants from various countries from deportation and kept them in the U.S. legally. It comes as the president and his allies seek to quietly but steadily change immigration in America by reversing previous presidents' executive actions.

One immigrant advocacy group called Trump's move "harsh, cruel, and disgusting."

That latest renewal was set to expire on Saturday, March 31, and Tuesday Trump gave formal notification that he is ending the program and giving recipients one year to leave the U.S. or possibly face deportation.

To critics, the decision threatens to uproot thousands of law-abiding Liberian immigrants who have been in the U.S. for a generation.

"This is home for me, and the thought of leaving my daughter is emotional. I’m pleading with the President and Congress to extend DED," one recipient, Nancy Harris of Alabama — who's been in the U.S. for 18 years with her husband, a pastor -- told reporters Monday.

"Accordingly, I find that conditions in Liberia no longer warrant a further extension of DED, but that the foreign policy interests of the United States warrant affording an orderly transition ("wind-down") period to Liberian DED beneficiaries," he added.

That "wind-down" will last one year from Saturday, giving beneficiaries until March 31, 2019, to either change their immigration status, leave the country, or be deported.

Trump's decision was met with fury and anxiety by his critics and Liberian recipients' defenders.

"Let’s be clear: This decision was a show of heart by the Trump Administration," said Patrice Lawrence, the national policy and advocacy director of UndocuBlack Network, an immigrant advocacy group focused on black people. "To ask people who have been here since the late 1990's to leave is harsh, cruel, and disgusting. You have a large group of people who now feel unstable. We see this administration’s relentless anti-immigrant policy and rhetoric as a concerted effort to make every immigrant undocumented."

Many vowed not to depart without a fight.

"To see that Liberians in the United States have stabilized their lives — and I think that’s part of the American Dream and the pursuit of happiness — and still uproot us and send us back to Liberia will force us to become refugees all over again," said Caroline Grimes, a DED recipient in Minnesota. "We must let Donald Trump know that this decision is unacceptable."

In November, then-Acting DHS Secretary Elaine Duke delayed a decision for 86,000 Hondurans — the second largest group of TPS holders — and determined the department needed more information. The delay triggered a six-month extension for Honduras with a new expiration date of July 5, 2018. DHS is required to provide a 60-day notice before terminating any designation.

There has been talk of Congress stepping in and aiding these groups, but so far, no legislative fix has gained steam.