Tucked into the National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2020, enacted on December 20, 2019, was a provision enabling most Liberians present in the U.S. since at least November 20, 2014 to apply for permanent residency prior to December 20, 2020.
Many Liberians in the U.S. have had either Temporary Protected Status (TPS) or Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) since 2002, and some have held those statuses since the early 1990s. They have been able to work legally and put down roots, but at the same time, have endured continual uncertainty, never knowing if their TPS or DED would be extended when each year or 18-month increment was due to end.
The Trump administration announced in March 2018 that it would terminate Liberian DED in March of 2019, and then granted an extension of the termination until March of 2020.
Section 7611 of the recently enacted defense funding bill will finally allow approximately 4000 Liberians to formally become what they have in fact already been – full members of their U.S. communities. This is a humane move, ending Liberians’ long temporary immigration status limbo. It is also a smart economic move, since these individuals are members of the nation’s workforce, and are contributing to their communities as neighbors, friends, consumers, and taxpayers.
The American Dream and Promise Act, already approved by the House of Representatives, would similarly create a path to residency for those with TPS and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status whose status has been terminated by the administration and remains intact due only to federal court orders. Like the Liberians, these approximately one million people are already part of, and contributing to, our communities. It’s high time for the Senate to pass similar, common sense legislation to provide them with a path to permanent residency by a veto-proof majority.
In the meantime, at least Liberians can at last apply for their “green cards”, and eventually for U.S. citizenship.