California residents who immigrated from Liberia may be eligible for a green card and citizenship under a provision originally introduced by two senators as an individual bill. Some of the 4,000 Liberians who can apply have been in the country for decades, arriving from approximately 1989 to 2003. The country suffered a civil war and an Ebola epidemic, and the economy there remains unstable.
Many arrived as part of the Temporary Protected Status program, which was ended by the Trump administration in 2017. Most qualified for the Deferred Enforced Departure program, which helped them avoid deportation. Although President Trump said he would end that as well, the deadline was extended to March 30, 2020. A lawsuit was filed claiming that returning the immigrants to Liberia would be discriminatory based on national origin and race. Some of the Liberians are also protected under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
Sen. Jack Reed, one of the bill’s sponsors, argued that it would not be in the best interests of the U.S. to remove Liberians from their homes, jobs and families and return them to a country they no longer knew. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has announced that it has begun taking green card applications from Liberian immigrants. After five years of having a green card, they will become eligible for citizenship.
Immigration law is complex and fast-changing, and people who are seeking a green card or citizenship may want to consult an attorney. There may be different paths under which a person can qualify for a green card, and some may be faster than others. An attorney may also be able to assist an individual who is not seeking to stay in the country permanently but who simply needs a temporary visa for work or education or to accompany a spouse for these purposes.