The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, or USCIS, has announced that it is now accepting applications from Liberian nationals wishing to apply for permanent residency in the U.S. under the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020.
Section 7611 of the act, recently signed into law by President Donald Trump, is known as the Liberian Refugee Immigration Fairness and allows Liberian nationals, their spouses, and unmarried children under 21 years of age or older living in the U.S. to apply to become lawful permanent residents.
The Liberian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act was championed by Democratic Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island and his colleagues in both the House and Senate. The new provision embedded within the Defense Act requires applicants to “have been continuously physically present in the United States from Nov. 20, 2014 to the date they properly file an application for adjustment of status,” the USCIS said in the announcement.
The agency noted that Dec. 20, 2020 is the last date it would accept any “properly filed” application.
Individuals exempted from benefiting from the provision include aliens convicted of an aggravated felony or those who participated in the persecution of any person because of race, religion, nationality, or membership in a particular social group or political opinion.
Triggered by civil wars in Liberia beginning in 1990, many of the affected Liberians fled their homes for safety to the United States, a country with which Liberia has long historical and cultural lies. Many were granted ‘protected’ status by the U.S. government upon arrival in the U.S., allowing them to work, attend schools, and benefit from other programs of assistance. Following the recent outbreak of the deadly Ebola epidemic between 2014 and 2015, which ravaged three West African countries including Liberia, these populations increased as new waves of Liberians fled the outbreak. Some 4,800 persons died in Liberian alone from the epidemic.
Featured photo by Flickr’s Bart