A Liberian family may be forced back to their homeland after nearly 20 years under protective custody here in the United States.
Anthony Zehyoue has made a life for himself in Baton Rouge. After breezing through elementary and high school, he attended LSU playing on the football team and earning a national championship ring. Now, as he pursues a masters degree he student teaches at Central High. Zehyoue says, “The saying is America is the land of opportunities. It really is.”
23-year-old Zehyoue is one of 10,000 Liberians who risked their lives fleeing the country after it erupted into a bloody civil war. For two decades, Zehyoue and the rest of his family have stayed here under temporary protective status. The war has been over for more than five years now, but still “Over 50% don’t have running water, 80% unemployment rate.”
After nearly 20 years of living and working in the United States, the Zehyoues suddenly found themselves in a race against the clock. The government says their visas expire at the end of this month. President Clinton and President Bush extended the protective order that allowed Liberians to stay in the U.S. when they were in office, but from the looks of things, the Zehyoues could face deportation beginning March 31st. “It’s something hard to accept because the way it always has been is the President takes care of that issue.”
But Zehyoue says they don’t want to leave this all behind just yet. They’ve hired a lawyer and kept in close contact with Senator Mary Landrieu who has co-sponsored legislation to help Liberians. “I get no sleep in that effort and I’m optimistic that things will work out.”
Zehyoue’s 15-year-old sister is a U.S. citizen by birth. If the family does face deportation they will have to decide whether to place her in a foster home or bring her back to Liberia.