Felicia Persaud (26512)
Felicia Persaud

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will on Sept. 6 publish a Federal Register notice for the extension and expansion of eligibility for Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) for Liberians. This relates to the June 27 memorandum by President Joe Biden that extends and expands DED for Liberians for 24 months. 

Eligible Liberian nationals covered under DED as of June 30, 2022, may remain in the United States through June 30, 2024. The president’s memorandum also defers the removal of any Liberian national, or individual without nationality who last habitually resided in Liberia, who has been continuously physically present in the United States since May 20, 2017, and who meets DED eligibility criteria.

There is no application for DED. Liberians covered under DED are authorized to work in the United States. Eligible Liberians covered by the memorandum may apply for an EAD by filing Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization. DHS may provide travel authorization at its discretion to those covered under Liberian DED. Individuals who wish to travel outside of the United States may file Form I-131, Application for Travel Document.

The memorandum also extends employment authorization for individuals covered under DED Liberia through June 30, 2024. USCIS is automatically extending the validity of Liberian DED-related EADs through June 30, 2024, for those who already have an EAD with a Category Code of A-11 and a Card Expires date of March 30, 2020; Jan. 10, 2021; or June 30, 2022. These EADs remain valid, even though their facial expiration date has passed.

This now allows eligible Liberians to apply for Employment Authorization Documents (EADs) that will allow them to work legally in the U.S.

Since 1991, the United States has provided safe haven for Liberians who were forced to flee their country as a result of armed conflict and widespread civil strife, in part through the grant of Temporary Protected Status (TPS). The armed conflict ended in 2003, and TPS for affected Liberian nationals ended effective October 1, 2007. President Bush then deferred the enforced departure of those Liberians originally granted TPS. President Obama, in successive memoranda, extended that grant of DED to March 31, 2018.  President Trump then determined that conditions in Liberia did not warrant a further extension of DED, but that the foreign policy interests of the United States warranted an orderly transition period for Liberian DED beneficiaries. President Trump later extended that DED transition period through March 30, 2020.

In December 2019, the Congress enacted the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020, which included, as section 7611, the Liberian Refugee Immigration Fairness (LRIF) provision. The LRIF provision, with limited exceptions, makes Liberians who have been continuously present in the United States since Nov. 20, 2014, as well as their spouses and children, eligible for adjustment of status to that of lawful permanent resident (LPR) or green card holder.  

The NDAA gave eligible Liberian nationals until Dec. 20, 2020, to apply for this adjustment of status. After the enactment of the LRIF provision, President Trump further extended the DED transition period through Jan. 10, 2021, to ensure that DED beneficiaries would continue to be eligible for employment authorization during the LRIF application period.

The LRIF application process was new and complex, resulting in some procedural and administrative challenges. Recognizing these difficulties, the Congress enacted a 1-year extension to the application period in section 901 of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021.  That legislation, however, did not provide for continued employment authorization past Jan. 10, 2021.  

Through the Biden memorandum of Jan. 20, 2021 (Reinstating Deferred Enforced Departure for Liberians), DED was subsequently reinstated through June 30, 2022, in order to permit employment authorization for eligible Liberians while they made their applications for adjustment of status under the LRIF provision.

The administration determined that there are compelling foreign policy reasons to extend DED for an additional period for those Liberians presently residing in the United States who were under a grant of DED until June 30, 2022, as well as to defer enforced departure for Liberians who have been continuously present in the United States since May 20, 2017. In addition to updating the continuous presence requirement, the president also determined that it is appropriate to include qualifying Liberians whose LRIF applications have been denied for reasons other than ineligibility under sections 7611(b)(1)(C) and (b)(3) of the NDAA in this DED designation.  

This includes providing protection from removal to those who arrived in the United States during a time when conditions prevented them from returning safely, including through May 20, 2017, and have since established family and community ties in the United States.  

“Providing protection from removal and work authorization to these Liberians, for whom we have long authorized TPS or DED in the United States, including while they complete the LRIF status-adjustment process, honors the historic close relationship between the United States and Liberia and is in the foreign policy interests of the United States,” President Biden said at the time. 

The writer is publisher of NewsAmericasNow.com – The Black Immigrant Daily News.

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