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All Liberian Conference on Dual Citizenship – PRESS STATEMENT

 

 

 

 

PRESS STATEMENT

COLUMBUS-Ohio: Liberians residing in Europe, Australia, Canada, and the United States will gather in Washington DC from December 7-8, 2012 for a two-day “All Liberian Conference on Dual Citizenship” to push for their country to allow dual nationality for the hundreds of thousands of citizens that fled the country’s 14-year brutal civil war and others in the diaspora. There are more than 500,000 Liberians living abroad as far as Australia, Singapore, Japan, South Korea and Brazil, and many were forced out of the country by the gruesome civil war. Liberia currently allows its natural born citizens to naturalize in foreign nations (Constitution – Article 28… no person shall be denied the right to change citizenship or nationality) but does not allow them to maintain their Liberian citizenship.

The conference is seeking to formulate a comprehensive strategy and approach as well as develop a supporting document to back the passage of the Dual Citizenship Bill in the   Liberian Legislature. A large number of Liberians who re-settled in Europe, the United States and elsewhere as a result of intractable conflicts at home want to expand their opportunities abroad through naturalization but are firm on maintaining their Liberian citizenships. These Liberian immigrants are seizing on opportunities to naturalize in order to obtain jobs that are reserved for citizens, gain priority in bringing family members to countries like the United States as immigrants, have greater eligibility for government-sponsored social benefits such as social security supplemental income, education and medical assistance that are reserved for citizens, obtain freedom from deportation or get exemption from the routine reporting requirements that are imposed on resident aliens often with exorbitant fees. These immigrants are simply maximizing their opportunities to obtain the necessary resources (education, knowledge, skills and wealth) to help develop a working middle class for Liberia that can serve as an engine for the reconstruction of the motherland, and a driving force to reduce poverty and increase household income.

The Union of Liberian Associations in the Americas (ULAA), The European Federation of Liberian Associations (EFLA), Conference of Liberian Organizations in the Southwestern United States (COLOSUS), and a Washington, DC based Liberian lobbying group, Coalition of Concerned Liberians (CCL), in collaboration with the Embassy of Liberia in Washington D.C. are organizing the two day conference from December 7-8, 2012 to be held at 7410 New Hampshire Avenue, Takoma Park, Maryland, USA under the theme: “Dual Citizenship in the Context of Restoring Family Reunion, Reconstruction and Development in the Republic of Liberia”. This conference is hosted by the ULAA DC chapter. A similar conference is in the making for Monrovia between February and March, 2013.

The 1973 Alien and Nationality Law which is similar to the 1952 U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act allows Liberians to naturalize in foreign countries.  However, the U. S Act of 1952 was amended in 1986 to allow natural born Americans to naturalize in foreign countries without losing their American citizenships but Liberia has not updated its Alien and Nationality law since 1973. The two-day Washington DC conference is seeking to reverse that especially in light of the mass exodus of hundreds of thousands of Liberians who were forced out of the country by 14 years of civil unrests, and are only seeking to expand opportunities for themselves by naturalizing abroad.

 

Liberians that naturalize abroad are not only stripped of their Liberian citizenships but are also debarred from owning land or other real estates in their native home. But the country has gone through tumultuous political change from the 1980 military intervention to 14 years of civil war which has resulted in a huge refugee and immigrant population not envisioned by architects of the 1973 Alien and Nationality Law.

Additionally, Liberian refugees and immigrants that are naturalizing abroad are doing so as a means of survival, and to garner support for their families and kindred left at home. Many of these refugees and immigrants made huge sacrifices by remitting over 1 billion U.S. dollars to suffering family members during the heydays of the civil war, and continue to transfer millions of dollars each year to support family members and stimulate the battered Liberian economy.

The organizers of the Dual Citizenship Conference have adopted four paths to achieving dual citizenship for natural born Liberians including repeal of the 1973 Alien and Nationality Law by the National Legislature, issuance of a Presidential Executive Order, a court decision or a Constitutional change allowing dual citizenship for natural born Liberians. ULAA, EFLA, COLOSUS, and CCL will continue to play leadership roles to achieve this objective.

Four senior senators have already co-sponsored a bill to repeal the Alien and Nationality Act including Sumo G. Kupee of Lofa County, Cletus S. Wotorson of Grand Kru County, Abel M. Massaley of Grand Cape Mount County and Jewell Howard-Taylor of Bong County, and the bill is rapidly gaining support in the Senate and the House of Representatives.

The bill states that NO PERSON who is a citizen of Liberia at birth shall lose his/her citizenship for reasons of marriage to a citizen of a foreign state; naturalization in a foreign state or naturalization of a parent or parents in another state; taking an oath or making an affirmation or declaration of allegiance to a foreign state or voting in a political election in a foreign state, and this shall apply only to a person who is a Liberian Citizen at birth. When the bill is passed in the National Legislature, Liberian Citizenship by Birth shall be automatically restored to any person who lost his/her citizenship under the 1973 Alien and Nationality Law. The proposed amendments to the Alien and Nationality Law are aligned with current immigration laws of many countries in Africa and other regions of the world.

In several visits abroad, top officials from all branches of the Liberian government, including President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and leaders of the National Legislature have assured the Liberian Diaspora of their unflinching support to repeal the Alien and Nationality Law to allow dual citizenship for natural born Liberians.

 

Signed:

Emmanuel S. Wettee

Convention Chairman and ULAA Chairman on Dual Citizenship

 

Issued December 2, 2012

 

 

Category: Press Releases

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