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In about-face, Trump extends humanitarian program for Liberians

Since 2007, Liberian immigrants have been allowed to live and work legally in the U.S. through a Temporary Protected Status (TPS) program. These programs allow nationals of certain countries to remain in the U.S. when conditions in their countries temporarily prevent them from safely returning there -- or when their countries are unable to handle their return.

According to the USCIS, the Secretary of Homeland Security can designate countries for TPS due to:

  • Ongoing armed conflict, such as a civil war
  • Environmental disasters or epidemics
  • Other extraordinary but temporary conditions

Once a country has been designated for TPS, immigrants from that country can apply, and are presumed eligible, to be beneficiaries. That status includes:

  • Protection from deportation
  • Employment authorization, if requested
  • Possible travel authorization
  • Access to driver's licenses in some states

TPS status was granted to Liberia due to a series of environmental disasters, wars and the Ebola virus. However, last year President Trump announced that conditions in Liberia had improved and the TPS program was no longer needed. Liberians were alarmed and, as the program's end date approached, they filed a lawsuit to keep the program in place.

Hours before the Liberian plaintiffs were to receive a court hearing, President Trump announced a one-year extension to the program. The extension is meant to be a wind-down period.

A spokesperson for Minnesota-based African Immigrant Services called the extension a "huge victory" for all U.S. immigrants. He told the Associated Press that Liberians "are surviving a huge storm that would have paralyzed our community, that would have separated families, that would have caused so many problems in our community." Minnesota is one of several states with large Liberian populations.

Immigration advocates including U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D - R.I.) praised the ruling but said that Congress needs to take action to protect Liberians. For years, the Democrat has been trying to get Congress to provide legal status to Liberians, along with a pathway to citizenship.

Whether you are Liberian or the national of another country with TPS status, you may have questions about your rights. Contact Yew Immigration Law Group to discuss whether there are legal options available to allow you to stay in the U.S. long-term.

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