While Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) beneficiaries await the U.S. Supreme Court’s opinion and most Temporary Protected Status (TPS) beneficiaries also are in limbo, Liberians have been given what appears to be a pathway to citizenship due to passage of the Liberian Refugee Immigration Fairness (LRIF) Act as part of the National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2020.
As of December 26, 2019, USCIS began accepting “Green Card” applications, i.e., applications to adjust to permanent residence, from Liberians who have been physically present in the United States continuously from November 20, 2014, (when there was an Ebola outbreak in Liberia) until the date on which they submit their applications. This window of opportunity will be open for one year only – until December 20, 2020.
There are some restrictions on applicants. Those who apply cannot have been convicted of an aggravated felony or two or more crimes involving moral turpitude. In addition, they must be otherwise eligible to receive an immigrant visa and be admissible to the United States. However, certain other grounds of inadmissibility will not apply to them:
- Public Charge;
- Labor Certification Requirements;
- Aliens Present Without Admission or Parole; and
- Documentation Requirements including a valid, unexpired passport.
Under the LRIF, spouses, unmarried children under 21, and unmarried sons and daughters 21 or older also are eligible for adjustment.
The Trump Administration decided to terminate Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) status for Liberians as of March 31, 2019. Then, in response to litigation and other protests, the President issued a Memorandum reversing course and extending the wind-down period to March 30, 2020, thus giving Congress a chance to act – and it did.
DED is similar to TPS. Currently, Liberians are the only nationals holding DED. President George Bush granted DED to Liberians in 2007 in response to a long period of civil war in that country. Senators Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and Tina Smith (D-Minn.) championed LRIF’s inclusion in the National Defense Authorization Act. Approximately 4,000 Liberians are DED beneficiaries, but many more are affected by this news because most of the DED beneficiaries have children and families in the U.S.
Perhaps this DED legislation will be a bellwether for legislation to secure the futures of many thousands more beneficiaries of TPS and DACA.