A high power delegation headed by the Union of Liberian Associations in the Americas (ULAA) has arrived in Liberia to push for the repeal of the Alien and Nationality Law. The delegation is scheduled to participate in a town hall meeting on Friday, May 10, 2013 at the University of Liberia’s main campus along with the Judiciary Committee of the Liberian Senate.
Addressing a news conference in Monrovia yesterday, a member of the delegation, Mr. Abraham G. Massaley said the delegation is representing 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).
Flanked by three other members of the delegation, Mr. Massaley said “as you may be aware Liberians in the Diaspora have launched a campaign to repeal the Alien and Nationality Law of Liberia. Chapter 22 of the 1973 Alien and Nationality Law is unjust and unconstitutional, regarding the loss of citizenship for natural born citizens.”
He said this statue deprives natural born Liberians of their birth rights while discriminating against the offsprings of Liberian women.
“Chapter 22 of the Alien and Nationality exists in contravention of the Liberian Constitution, and international accords to which Liberia is signatory. Nearly one third of the membership of the Liberian Senate and several members of the House of Representatives have given their expressed consent to the repeal effort,” Mr. Massaley disclosed.
He further said that the 1973 Alien and Nationality Law was patterned after the U.S. Immigration Act of 1952 which was amended in 1986 to allow natural born Americans to naturalize in foreign countries without losing their American citizenship.
“Black Americans, Ghanaians, Nigerians, British, Sierra Leoneans, South Africans, Kenyans and several other nationalities can naturalize in Liberia without losing citizenships in their countries of origin. Unlike America and other nations, Liberia, despite major social, economic, and political changes, has not updated its Alien and Nationality law since 1974,” the delegation’s spokesman said.
Mr. Massaley, a former President of the Press Union of Liberia (PUL) said 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 to a huge refugee and immigrant population not envisioned by architects of the 1973 Alien and Nationality Law,” he added.
The delegation noted that to deprive a person of a constitutional right, especially the inherent right to citizenship, the state must show a compelling national interest to be protected.
‘There is no compelling national interest to uniformly and automatically strip hundreds of thousands of Liberians who fled the 14-year civil war of their citizenship and consequently deprive them of owning land or other real estates in their native home because of their act to naturalize abroad. The decision to naturalize abroad is directly related to issues of survival, and to expand opportunities for Liberians abroad and their relatives in Liberia, while declaring our firm commitment to maintaining full Liberian citizenship,’ the delegation spokesman said.
Mr. Massaley said, “the 1973 Alien and Nationality Law is in violation of Articles 11(c), 20 (a), Article 27(a) and 95 (a) of the National Constitution, and it discriminates on the basis of gender because the statue does not recognize children born outside Liberia unto Liberian mothers as Liberian citizens but recognizes children born outside the country to Liberian fathers as natural born Liberians.”
He further said Article 27(a) of the 1986 Constitution of Liberia clearly states that “All persons who, on the coming into force of this Constitution were lawfully citizens of Liberia shall continue to be Liberian citizens”.
Still mindful of the law, Mr. Massaley said Section 21 .30 of the Nationality Law further unconstitutionally discriminates against Liberian women by providing a pathway to citizenship for foreign spouses of Liberian men without providing a similar pathway to citizenship for foreign spouses of Liberian women.
‘Section 20.1(b) of the Nationality Law unconstitutionally discriminates against Liberian mothers in that it does not recognize children born outside Liberia to Liberian mothers as Liberian citizens but recognizes children born outside Liberia to Liberian fathers as Liberian citizens,’ the delegation noted.
“We want to highlight the good intentions of Liberian immigrants who are seizing on opportunities to naturalize abroad 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, or get exemption from the routine reporting requirements that are imposed on resident aliens often with exogenous fees,” he stressed.
He noted that these are the reasons why they are requesting the National Legislature to repeal with urgency, the 1973 Alien and Nationality Law as amended in 1974 to allow for retention of citizenships for natural born Liberians who naturalize in a foreign country and to provide for children born out of the country by Liberian mothers to enjoy the same citizenship rights already being enjoyed by children of Liberian fathers.
He disclosed further that currently, there are more than 500,000 Liberians residing out of the country. “This is a huge segment of our country’s population that is being forced into extinction by the Alien and Nationality Law; we must not allow this to further happen,” he observed.
The delegation maintained that allowing such Liberians to retain their Liberian citizenship will maximize opportunities for Liberians living outside Liberia 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.
The delegation said it must be noted that huge sacrifices were made by Diaspora Liberians who remitted over US1b to suffering family members during the civil war, and continue to transfer tens of millions of dollars each year to support family members and stimulate the battered Liberian economy.
“We also demonstrated in Washington DC and other world capitals even during very cold weather, and lobbied with the United States and countries to end the brutal civil war. Today, the same people who demonstrated in very cold weather to end the civil war are now being stripped of their Liberian citizenships,” he said.