Maple Grove Liberian immigrant says new legal status makes for ‘best Christmas ever’

Magdalene Menyongar fights away tears during a press conference.
Magdalene Menyongar fights away tears during a press conference with Sen. Amy Klobuchar in March 2018, as they discuss the anxiety Liberians are feeling as the deadline for the Deferred Enforced Departure program looms at the African Development Center in Minneapolis.
Riham Feshir | MPR News 2018

Minnesota’s Liberian community is celebrating after Congress sent a bill to President Trump on Tuesday that contains a provision giving some Liberian immigrants a path to citizenship.

Thousands of Liberians came to the United States in the 1990s, fleeing civil war. Many settled in Minnesota, which is home to the nation's largest Liberian population.

Liberian immigrants with Deferred Enforced Departure have been able to stay in the U.S. through multiple extensions. But they have faced an uncertain future since 2018, when President Trump announced he intended not to renew their status.

After being granted a temporary reprieve earlier this year, Liberian immigrants urged their members of Congress to push for a permanent solution that would allow them to get green cards and become eligible for citizenship.

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“This is the best Christmas ever,” said Magdalene Menyongar, who lives in Maple Grove with her 17-year-old daughter, a U.S. citizen.

Menyongar hasn’t been able to travel to visit her mother, who is 97, since fleeing civil war in Liberia in 1994 for fear of not being let back into the U.S.

She sends money home and says she has found comfort in taking care of other people’s parents as a nursing assistant.

“Sometimes I have to take the love for my mother and put it through my job to help other people. Because when I do that, it brings peace to me, even if I don't see my mother,” Menyongar said in an interview Tuesday after the Senate passed the bill and sent it to the president for his signature.

"With this great news, it will be possible to see her,” she said, adding that the action also ensures she will be able to attend her daughter’s high school graduation in June.

Menyongar said she began telling her story after Trump announced he would end the Deferred Enforced Departure program. She has spoken at press conferences and to members of Congress.

“I want to say thank you to everybody that made it possible,” she said. “I am so grateful.”