4,000 Liberians Granted a Path to Citizenship in Hidden Provision of New Law

In a surprise move, the $738 billion defense appropriation bill signed into law on December 20 by the Trump administration includes a small provision: a path to citizenship for about 4,000 Liberians who currently live in the United States under humanitarian aid programs. Since the 1990s, Liberian immigrants in the United States have been fleeing civil war in their home nation. They have been residing here for over two decades under two programs: Deferred Enforced Departure and Temporary Protected Status (TPS).

In March 2018, President Trump announced that his administration would terminate DED on March 31, 2019, giving thousands of people only 12 months to leave a country where they had raised children, bought homes, and started businesses. After a lawsuit from 15 DED holders and numerous advocacy groups accused the administration of terminating the DED for racist reasons, the Trump administration extended the deadline to March 2020. Now, Liberians will have the chance to apply for green cards before their DED protection expires.

Advocates for Liberians in the US attributed the provision to the legislative skill of Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island and Senator Tina Smith of Minnesota. Reed, whose state has the largest Liberian population per capita, has advocated for a path to citizenship for Liberians for over 20 years.

Patrice Lawrence, the National Policy and Advocacy Director for the UndocuBlack Network, says “This breakthrough is a testament to the power of organizing, and what a focused movement can do.” However, she recognizes that the fight isn’t over. The lawsuit against the Trump administration will continue on, but their new goal will be to expose the administration’s motive for ending DED protections in the first place.

Who Is Eligible to Apply for a Green Card?

To be eligible, Liberian nationals must have been “continuously physically present” in the US from Nov. 20 to the date they file for an application for adjustment of status. US immigration officials will accept applications until December 20, 2020.

For those who want to apply for a green card, you’ll need to apply quickly. “The [law] doesn’t require that [the Liberians] keep their work permits beyond March,” said Lawrence. “The difference with a gap of a week or two can mean loss of livelihoods, inability to pay for medicine, rent and support loved ones here and abroad.”

To apply for your green card with a seasoned immigration lawyer, speak with the Law Offices of Lloyd E. Bennett, Esq., P.C. today!