Monrovia – United States new President, Joe Biden has signed into law an Executive Order granting protection for thousands of Liberians whose status have expired under former President Donald Trump’s Defense Bill signed in December 2019.
The Executive Order extends the Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) designated for Liberians in the U. S. until June 30, 2022, a relief for thousands of Liberians whose legal status expired in December 2020 under the law.
It was among several Executive orders signed by President Biden on his first day in office, few hours following his and VP Kamala Harris’ ‘historic’ inauguration in Washington D.C. on Wednesday, according to CBS news.
According to report, the presidential memorandum will also extend their work authorization and ease the burden of application for residency under the Liberian Refugee Immigration Fairness (LRIF) Act.
For over two decades, thousands of Liberian immigrants have lived with uncertainty in the United States after fleeing civil war in the 1990s and early 2000s. The number increased in the wake of the Ebola outbreak in 2014.
Under both Republican and Democrat administrations, they received temporary respite in the form of humanitarian programs referred to as the Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) issued at the discretion of U.S. President.
In December 2019, Trump threatened to end the program, prompting calls for a permanent fix for Liberian immigrants. However, that same year, he signed the LRIF provision under the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020.
Although the bill was a victory for DED holders, it allowed unauthorized Liberian nationals to apply for a green card — as long as they’ve been in the U.S. for the past five years, counting from the time of its passage.
But advocates argued the excessive application fees blocked more Liberians from acquiring green cards until the term expired in December 2020, leaving thousands of Liberians’ fates in limbo.
A leading advocacy group, the Universal Human Rights International (UHRI) has been calling for a blanket waiver of all filing fees and extension of deadline due to the COVID-19 pandemic and consistent with Section 245(i) of the US Immigration and Nationality Act that exempts refugees from paying filing fees for green cards.
The advocacy group, through its founder, Rev. Torli Kruah, in collaboration with several American based institutions and politicians including the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic/GBLS of the Harvard University Law School and retire Massachusetts’ State Representative, Benjamin Swan has been advocating for the these Liberians.