Phillips Urges Biden Administration to Immediately Fix Liberian Refugee Citizenship Program as the House Takes Up Immigration Reform

March 17, 2021
Press Release
Due to significant implementation problems, only 91 Liberian DED recipients newly eligible for citizenship had applications approved in FY 2020

WASHINGTON, D.C. – As the House of Representatives takes up immigration reform this week, Rep. Dean Phillips (MN-03) sent a letter to the heads of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) urging the Biden Administration to improve the program that provides a pathway to citizenship for Liberian refugees living in America on the Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) program.

The Liberian Refugee Immigration Fairness (LRIF) Act was signed into law in 2019, the culmination of a years-long effort by Minnesota’s Liberian community, Phillips, and a core group of bipartisan lawmakers. Though more than 2,300 applied in FY 2020, only 91 Liberian DED recipients had their LRIF applications successfully completed due to ongoing delays at USCIS and challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“For decades, Liberian refugees have worked, owned homes, raised families, and paid taxes legally in Minnesota through the DED program with no opportunity to become citizens,” said Rep. Phillips. “Our extraordinary Liberian community, along with Republicans and Democrats in Congress, worked so hard to finally secure a pathway. We thought the hardest part of the journey was behind us, but it appears that unacceptable hurdles remain. Congress and the Biden Administration must come together to ensure that every eligible applicant for the LRIF program receives fair treatment and full transparency.”

In January, President Biden signed a memorandum extending Liberian refugees’ protection from deportation while Congress further refines immigration policy. The House is expected to pass the Dream and Promise Act, which takes additional steps to simplify the pathway to citizenship for DED recipients, this week. Absent similar action in the Senate, current law requires those eligible for LRIF to submit applications to the backlogged USCIS system by December 20, 2021.

Phillips’s letter outlines concrete steps the Administration can take to ensure that the LRIF program functions as intended right now. Click here to read.

WATCH: Rep. Phillips leads fight in Congress for Minnesota’s Liberian Community

Minnesota is home to the largest Liberian population in the country, many of whom live in Brooklyn Park. Constituents struggling to break through the backlog at USCIS are encouraged to reach out to the Office of Rep. Dean Phillips for assistance.