The fate of thousands of Liberians in the U.S. seeking residency hangs in the balance, as a 20 December deadline for them to apply for citizenship fast approaches, with a 2019 federal program being hampered by a slow launch and burdensome procedures, Women Voices has reliably gathered.

A lawmaker in the U.S., Rep Dean Phillips, D-Minn., is part of a group pushing Congress to cancel or extend the deadline for Liberians living in the United States to apply for citizenship.

It would be the second extension related to the Liberian Refugee Fairness Act, which Congress passed in 2019 to give Liberian nationals who have lived in the U.S. for years — sometimes decades — a path to a green card and permanent residency.

But processing delays triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic have caused an enormous backlog of pending applications with the federal government.

“The sad news is that many, many who have made an application for either green cards or citizenship have not had their applications processed,” said Phillips, whose Third District is home to a large number of Liberians. “We should at the very least extend or perhaps eliminate the deadline altogether for these applications. It is the humane thing to do.”

Applications can require an attorney and take up to 12 months to process, according to the UndocuBlack Network, which is pushing for a deadline change.

Minnesota is home to the nation’s largest Liberian community, many of whom were forced to flee their country during armed conflict.

Phillips wants Congress to include the change in its annual defense package.

Source: Star Tribune

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