Deferred Enforced Departure (DED), similar to Temporary Protected Status (TPS), allows foreign nationals to remain in the United States temporarily due to extenuating circumstances in their homelands. According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services agency, DED “is in the president’s discretion to authorize as part of his power to conduct foreign relations.”
Exercising his executive discretion, President George H.W. Bush initially granted DED to citizens of Liberia who were in the United States on some sort of temporary visa. And, exercising his executive discretion, President Donald Trump has decided to terminate DED status for Liberians, thereby requiring some 4,000 beneficiaries to return home when it expires at the end of this month.
Pretty simple and straightforward: Receiving and maintaining DED status is at the discretion of whatever president occupies the Oval Office. Or, maybe not. Like TPS, and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), an extra-legal program that President Obama made clear could be terminated by some future president, President Trump’s decision to end DED for Liberians is the subject of a lawsuit.
Aside from the usual arguments offered whenever a “temporary” status is revoked – “They’ve been here so long,” etc. – the advocacy groups representing Liberian DED beneficiaries have come up with a unique argument for why the Trump administration cannot end the program. “The Trump administration’s decision to terminate Deferred Enforced Departure for Liberian immigrants was the direct result of intentional discrimination directed at the Liberian community, runs contrary to evidence, and violates the constitution,” states a press release by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and Lawyers for Civil Rights, which filed the suit.
In other words, if a president exercises discretionary authority to grant a temporary benefit “directed at” a specific group of people, the decision to revoke that temporary benefit then becomes “intentional discrimination” against that specific group and is therefore unconstitutional. The press release (and the lawsuit itself) then offers opinion dressed up as fact to bolster their argument. “This lawsuit seeks to combat the discriminatory and xenophobic immigration policies driven by the Trump administration.”
There can be little doubt that the plaintiffs will find an activist federal judge who will buy these arguments and block the administration from ending DED for Liberians. It may not survive the legal process in the long run, but that’s not really the point of this and similar lawsuits. The goal is to run the clock on the Trump presidency and, in that respect, their strategy seems to be succeeding.