Awaits Trump’s approval
The US Senate has unanimously voted to approve the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act, which includes a provision that allows Liberians on the Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) program to apply for permanent resident status and citizenship.
According to US media, the bill which has been sent to US President Donald Trump for his approval, was passed by 86-8 votes.
When signed into law by President Trump, the bill will bring relief to more than 40,000 Liberians who have lived in the United States temporarily for decades under the DED without an opportunity to pursue citizenship. It also provides a protection status for the spouses and children of Liberian nationals.
Although the bill would bring relief to thousands of Liberians on the DED program, it is not without conditions.
According to Section 7611 of the approved bill, applicant should submit an application within one year of enactment of the act and should have been living in the U.S. continuously since November 20, 2014, and not absent for more than 180 days in aggregate.
It also prohibits eligibility for anyone convicted of a violent crime or an individual who has ordered, incited, assisted, or otherwise participated in the persecution of any person on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.
However, the bill called on the Secretary of Homeland Security to create a process whereby applicants may seek a stay of deportation if they have filed an application for legal resident status and authorize the secretary to allow individuals to work in the US while their application is being considered.
It would mandate work authorization for anyone whose application has been pending for more than 180 days.
If granted, the legal permanent residence would be approved as of the date of arrival in the United States.
The DED is a humanitarian program that protects approximately 4,000 Liberian immigrants in the United States. It has over the past two decades been renewed by both Republican and Democrat administrations because of environmental disasters and armed conflict in Liberia.
The move by the US Senate to create a pathway for Liberian DED holders to get permanent resident status and citizenship comes as their DED extension expiration date draw nears—March 2020.
The extension, which was given by President Trump, came just days before their deportation deadline on March 31, 2019.
Although President Trump administration approved a one-year reprieve, he had twice moved to end the program, noting that conditions in Liberia had improved because it is no longer experiencing armed conflicts and had recovered from a 2014 outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus.
Caption: The move by the US Senate to create a pathway for Liberian DED holders to get permanent resident status and citizenship comes as their DED extension expiration date draw nears—March 2020.