In a rather unprecedented move, the Trump administration granted a path to citizenship for about 4,000 Liberians living legally in the United States on humanitarian programs, mainly DED and TPS.
What you may not know is the provision was literally BURIED in the $738 billion defense appropriation bill for fiscal year 2020 under “Other Matters.” The bill, which was signed into law on Dec. 20, will allow these Liberians to apply for green cards under Section 7611 of the National Defense Authorization Act titled “Liberian refugee immigration fairness”.
For over two decades, thousands of Liberian immigrants have lived with uncertainty in the US after fleeing civil war in the 1990s and early 2000s. Under both Republican and Democrat administrations, they received temporary respite in the form of humanitarian programs – the Deferred Enforced Departure and Temporary Protected Status programs – issued at the president’s discretion. Over the years they have been shuffled between both programs.
The biggest scare came in March 2018 when president Donald Trump announced the termination of the DED program and gave the more than 4,000 Liberian DED holders a year – until Mar. 31, 2019 – to leave the US or risk deportation. The announcement sparked a lawsuit from advocacy groups, African Communities Together and Undocublack, and fifteen Liberian DED holders, which cited racial animus as the president’s motive for terminating the program. But just days before the deadline, the administration quietly issued an executive order extending the program until Mar. 30, 2020. And now, with the green-card provision, Liberians can apply for permanent residency before the expiration of their current statuses.
Once dubbed “America’s stepchild,” Liberia has had a nearly 200-year bilateral relationship with the US. The West African country was founded by freed African-American slaves who helped create the modern Liberian state in 1847. Tensions between indigenous peoples and the settlers’ descendants, who held a near monopoly on political control of the state until 1980, contributed to the early days of violence in the country.
Advocacy groups hailed the “legislative prowess” of Senator Jack Reed, a Democrat from Rhode Island and Senator Tina Smith, a Democrat from Minnesota. Reed has been a fierce advocate of the Liberian community; the provision in the NDAA bill is modeled after his long-championed Liberian Refugee and Immigrant Fairness Act. Rhode Island has one of the largest populations of Liberians in the US per capita, and since 1999, Reed has worked to allow Liberians to legally remain in the United States.
To be eligible for the green card, Liberian nationals must have been continuously physically present in the United States from Nov. 20, 2014, to the date they properly file an application for adjustment of status. US immigration will accept applications from eligible Liberians seeking to adjust their status until Dec. 20, 2020.
Ineligible applicants include those who have been convicted of any aggravated felony.
Source: Bookman Muapoe