President Biden Reinstates Deferred Enforced Departure for Eligible Liberian Nationals in the U.S.

Liberian Nationals Eligible for Deferred Enforced Departure

Written by Taher Kameli & Chathan Vemuri

At the very beginning of his term in office, President Biden has put immigration reform at the top of his agenda, passing a series of executive orders challenging and even overturning President Trump’s immigration policies.[1] Be it rescinding the Muslim travel ban or restoring DACA, the Biden administration has made impressive gestures towards repairing an immigration system affected by the Trump administration’s more exclusivist hardline policies.[2] One particular change of note is the President’s revival of the Deferred Enforced Departure program.[3] This program, which covers around 4,000 long-term Liberian residents for whom return to their country would be unsafe, had lapsed when former President Trump refused to renew the program.[4] Its revival by President Biden gives back an opportunity to Liberian residents long-resident in the US to continue their path to adjust their status to that of lawful permanent residents, rewarding the amount of time they’ve lived in and gave to this country.[5]

 

However, in 2007, due to the number of Liberians who were living in this country after having fled political turmoil in their native country, (under the grant of Temporary Protected Status), then-President George W. Bush deferred the enforced departure of Liberians who were originally granted Temporary Protected Status (TPS).[6] Over the next decade, succeeding President Obama passed successive memoranda extending President Bush’s grant of Deferred Enforcement Departure (DED) to March 31, 2018.[7]Therefore, during Donald Trump’s presidency, he ordered a transition period out of DED status for Liberian beneficiaries because he did not feel the circumstances in Liberia as he understood them warranted extending DED.[8] The transition period was extended by the former president through March 30, 2020.[9]

 

In his Memorandum, President Biden noted that reviving the DED status for an additional period for Liberian residents who were under said grant as of January 10, 2021, would serve “compelling foreign policy reasons” in terms of sustaining historically close relations between the United States and Liberia[1] (which was founded in part as a homeland for emancipated African-Americans in 1817).[2] The President also provided work authorization for these eligible Liberian residents while they are on DED status or TPS status, which would help get them through while they complete their Liberian Refugee Immigration Fairness (LRIF) status-adjustment process. [3]

 

Moreover, the LRIF process stems from the LRIF provision (section 7611) of the   National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 (NDAA).[4] Through this process authorized by section 7611 of the NDAA, they would be able to transition into becoming lawful permanent residents of the United States as long as they met certain criteria.[5] This application process was supposed to be ongoing until December 20, 2020 but the Trump administration extended the deadline through January 10, 2021 “to ensure that DED beneficiaries would continue to be eligible for employment authorization during the LRIF application period.”[6]

 

Therefore, by reviving and extending the DED status and providing work authorization for those Liberians who have benefitted from DED status, the Biden administration hopes to clear the path for them to more easily complete the LRIF status-adjustment process.[7] Both the DED status and the work authorization are extended through June 30th of 2022.[8]

 

In addition, it should be noted that the revival and grant of DED status and work authorization is for eligible Liberian residents only.[9] It does not apply to individuals such as those who seek Lawful Permanent Resident Status under the LRIF provision but whose applications were denied by the Secretary of Homeland Security.

 

Nor does it apply to those individuals whose removal is deemed to be in the interest or the United States by the Secretary of Homeland Security.[10] A full list of the categories of individuals barred from this extension of DED status and work authorization can be found in the memorandum itself.[11]

 

Please fill out the form below or give us a call at +1 (312)-233-1000 if you have any questions about the extension of the Deferred Enforced Departure and work authorization statuses by the Biden administration and/or if it affects your own immigration case.

[1] Id.

[2] Ricks, Mary Kay, Was Liberia Founded by Freed U.S. Slaves, Slate (Jul. 03, 2003 10:49 AM) available at https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2003/07/who-founded-liberia.html

[3] Presidential Memorandum, 86 Fed. Reg. 7055-7056 (Jan. 20, 2021) available at https://www.aila.org/infonet/president-biden-issued-memorandum-on-reinstating

[4] Id. at 7055

[5] Id. (Such criteria being that they be “Liberians who have been continuously present in the United States since November 20, 2014.” This would apply to their spouses and children as well.)

[6] Id.

[7] Id.

[8] Id. at 7056.

[9] Id.

[10] Id.

[11] Id. at 7055-7056. (Here are the categories of ineligible persons: “(1) Individuals who would be ineligible for TPS for the reasons provided in section 244(c)(2)(B) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, 8 U.S.C. 1254a(c)(2)(B); (2) Individuals who sought or seek LPR status under the LRIF provision but whose applications have been or are denied by the Secretary of Homeland Security; (3) Individuals whose removal the Secretary of Homeland Security determines is in the interest of the United States, subject to the LRIF provision; (4) Individuals whose presence or activities in the United States the Secretary of State has reasonable grounds to believe would have potentially serious adverse foreign policy consequences for the United States; (5) Individuals who have voluntarily returned to Liberia or their country of last habitual residence outside the United States for an aggregate period of 180 days or more, as specified in subsection (c)(2) of the LRIF provision; (6) Individuals who were deported, excluded, or removed prior to the date of this memorandum; or (7) Individuals who are subject to extradition.”

[1] Redden, Elizabeth, Biden Makes Immigration Day 1 Priority, Inside Higher Ed. (Jan. 21, 2021) available at https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2021/01/21/biden-takes-action-immigration-day-one

[2] Id.

[3] Bray, Ilona, Biden Administration’s First Changes to U.S. Immigration Policy, Nolo (Feb. 2, 2021) available at https://www.nolo.com/legal-updates/biden-administrations-first-changes-to-u-s-immigration-policy.html

[4] Id.

[5] Presidential Memorandum, 86 Fed. Reg. 7055 (Jan. 20, 2021) available at https://www.aila.org/infonet/president-biden-issued-memorandum-on-reinstating

[6] Id.

[7] Id.

[8] Id.

[9] Id.