By Wynfred Russell
After calling the COVID relief bill a “disgrace,” President Donald Trump signed the measure on Dec. 28, extending expanded unemployment benefits and an eviction moratorium, averting a government shutdown, and providing a one-year extension to Liberian DED holders.
Subsumed within the $900 billion spending bill passed by Congress on Dec. 21, 2020, was a provision extending the Liberian Refugee Immigration Fairness program, or LRIF, for one more year. The program, which was initially signed into law in December 2019, was set to expire on Dec. 20, 2020. LRIF provides a pathway for certain Liberians and their eligible family members to apply for lawful permanent resident status, commonly known as a “green card,” and ultimately citizenship. The new deadline for submitting LRIF applications is Dec. 20, 2021.
The LRIF program was created through robust advocacy efforts by the African Career, Education & Resources, Inc. (ACER), Liberians, and other Black immigrant advocates, and a bipartisan cohort of Democrats and Republicans in Congress over many years. Although more than 10,000 people are eligible for the program, only 2,500 were able to apply by the previous deadline due to COVID-19, including burdensome paperwork requirements, mandatory in-person interviews in the middle of a pandemic, delayed-release of critical information needed by practitioners and applicants to submit applications. The extension allows the incoming Biden administration to ensure the program is a success.
“This one-year extension for the application period is important and is only the beginning of what is needed to ensure that all eligible Liberian immigrants can adjust their status”, said a statement issued by ACER.
“The extension of the LRIF deadline is another huge win for the Liberian community!” said Diana Konate, Policy Director at African Communities Together. “It provides thousands of Liberians who struggled to get their application submitted another chance at a green card.
Pamela Roberts, Citizenship and Family Unification Staff Attorney, HIAS Pennsylvania, said: “This extension upholds the intent of the Liberian Refugee Immigration Fairness (LRIF) program because it aims to treat our Liberian-born community members fairly.
LRIF candidates are essential to the healthcare system and our economy as they work together to recover from the ravages of COVID-19. ACER is excited to have the opportunity to help more of our hard-working immigrant community members stabilize their immigration status, which strengthens families, communities, and our state.