NEW YORK:____ CITY, NY AND PHILADELPHIA, PA — Today, New York City and Philadelphia issued a joint letter with peer cities Baltimore, Maryland; St. Paul, Minnesota; Minneapolis, Minnesota; and Providence, Rhode Island to urge Congress to extend the December 20, 2020 deadline for green card applications under Liberian Refugee Immigration Fairness (LRIF) for at least one year, until the end of December 2021. LRIF is a provision of an important and fair bipartisan law that passed at the end of 2019, which provides a pathway to citizenship for some Liberians and their immediate family members living in the United States since 2014. Given the stressors of COVID-19, cities have come together to advocate for this extension so more eligible immigrants can apply. This advocacy complements outreach efforts on the ground to inform Liberian immigrants about the program and how to apply before the current deadline.
The new letter, signed by leading officials of each jurisdiction, underscores that the extension of the LRIF deadline is necessary due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the hardships experienced in particular by Black communities, and in the interest of advancing racial justice. The United States and Liberia have a unique relationship. In 1847, the modern state of Liberia was founded by formerly enslaved African-Americans, among others. By extending the deadline for green card applications under LRIF, the United States would honor the historical relationship between the two countries and provide eligible Liberian individuals—many of whom are descendants of enslaved Africans—with the opportunity to complete the LRIF process and adjust their immigration status.
Under Liberian Refugee Immigration Fairness, applications for green cards must be filed by December 20, 2020. Liberian individuals who have a pending green card application based on the LRIF may apply for work authorization. Spouses and unmarried children may also qualify for green cards, and there is no public charge test for those applying for green cards. For more information on eligibility requirements, please visit the USCIS website.
Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and its particular impact on Black communities, only a small number of Liberian immigrants have submitted applications to adjust their status to legal permanent residents under LRIF. This is concerning as there is only one month left to apply for a green card under LRIF while the Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) designation for Liberia, which many in the community currently rely on to live and work in the United States, is set to end on January 10, 2021.
“We are committed to working alongside our peer cities and community partners to ensure that every eligible Liberian has access to the information and resources they need to apply for LRIF and are given a fair shot to complete an application,” said Bitta Mostofi, Commissioner of New York City’s Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs. “We once again applaud passage of this legislation by Congress and the creation of this pathway to residency for our Liberian communities. Today, we urge delegates to recognize the immense economic and health challenges presented by COVID-19 for this community to avail itself of this relief. Congress must take action and extend a fair deadline for this much-needed program.”
“We are very concerned that many eligible Liberians have not applied because of the economic hardships that the pandemic has caused, among other challenges. It is our responsibility to ask Congress to take concrete actions and give more time to the Liberian community to file their green card applications,” said Amy Eusebio, Executive Director of the City of Philadelphia’s Office of Immigrant Affairs.
This provision provides eligible Liberian individuals who arrived in the United States the opportunity to become green card holders and, therefore, a path to citizenship. Also, it gives “hope for people who have been missing from the world” to reconnect with their roots, their past, and the family that they left behind in Liberia, according to Voffee Jabateh, CEO of the African Cultural Alliance of North America—a Philadelphia-area provider of legal, social and health services for African and Caribbean immigrants.
“As the proud son of immigrants, I am intimately aware of how important pathways to citizenship like LRIF are,” said City of Providence Mayor Jorge O. Elorza. “The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted every other aspect of our lives, particularly for our vulnerable immigrant neighbors who disproportionately hold low-wage frontline jobs that keep our economy and society afloat. It is in our interest as Americans to extend the application deadline for our Liberian neighbors seeking citizenship during this time.”
LOCAL OUTREACH, SUPPORT EFFORTS, AND RESOURCES
New York City
● On Wednesday, November 18 at 12:00 p.m., New York City’s Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs (MOIA) will host a virtual Liberian Refugee Immigration Fairness Town Hall and Media Roundtable with elected officials and community-based advocacy organizations on LRIF, the upcoming deadline to apply for a green card under the provision, and how New York City residents can access free, safe legal help and possible fee assistance. Community members may participate in the Facebook livestream and ask questions at facebook.com/nycimmigrants.
● The City and its coalition of partners, along with elected officials, have been mobilizing to get the word out about the program and to connect Liberian immigrants to supportive services to ensure that immigrant families receive the immigration status they are eligible for. This week, outreach will include street canvassing at centers of life for the Liberian community in New York City. Reporters can attend specific canvassing events; email email@example.com to learn more.
● Any New Yorker with questions on how they can apply for a green card under LRIF can get free and trusted immigration legal support. New York City residents can contact Staten Island Legal Services at 718-233-6480 between 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, to seek legal help and ask about application fee assistance that may be available. Immigrant New Yorkers can also call the ActionNYC hotline at 1-800-354-0365 between 9:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, to access a range of City-funded immigration legal help. For more information, visit nyc.gov/ded-lrif.
● For more information about LRIF and resources for New York City residents, visit nyc.gov/ded-lrif.
● On Wednesday, November 18 at 7:00 p.m., the All Liberia Diaspora Women Organization, HIAS Pennsylvania, Philadelphia’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, and the Mayor’s Commission on African and Caribbean Immigrant Affairs, among other partners, will be hosting an information session on Liberian Refugee Immigration Fairness (LRIF). Members of the public can join the conference call by calling at 848-777-1500, code 236-0770.
● Liberians who live in Pennsylvania and need help filing their application under LRIF should consult a trusted legal services provider or call HIAS PA at 215-832-0900 to set up a consultation as soon as possible.
● For specific case questions, individuals in Providence can contact the Dorcas International Institute of Rhode Island at 401-784-8607 for a phone consultation. Dorcas International is a non-profit agency providing services to the immigrant and refugee community of Rhode Island. Dorcas International has a staff of attorneys and accredited caseworkers who are trained and experienced in all areas of immigration procedures.
About the NYC Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs
The NYC Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs (MOIA) promotes the well-being of NYC’s immigrant communities by advocating for policies that increase justice, equity, and empowerment. MOIA leads, supports, and manages programs that help to successfully include immigrant New Yorkers in the civic, economic, and cultural life of the City. For more information on all MOIA services and the City’s many resources for immigrant New Yorkers, go to nyc.gov/immigrants; call the MOIA hotline at 212-788-7654 from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday or send an email to AskMOIA@cityhall.nyc.gov; and follow us on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn.
About Philadelphia’s Office of Immigrant Affairs (OIA)
The mission of the Office of Immigrant Affairs (OIA) is to implement policies and programs and ensure access to services that strengthen the well-being of Philadelphia’s immigrant communities. The office highlights the essential role that immigrants have played and continue to play in the city.