Liberian Ph.D. student could soon be facing deportation after more than two decades in the U.S.

28-year-old Yatta Kiazolu has called the U.S. her home since she was just 6, but that could all change in just a matter of days. She is among the estimated 4,000 Liberian immigrants whose protection from deportation will end in less than two weeks, on March 31. 

As a Ph.D. candidate in history at the University of California, Los Angeles, Kiazolu should be looking forward to a bright future. But following the Trump administration’s announcement last year that Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) would be ending for immigrants like her in March 2019, a shadow has been cast over that future. Does she return to Liberia, a country she no longer recognizes? Or does she stay here and become undocumented?

She notes that she’s made numerous efforts to try to adjust her status. Roll Call reports that, ”In the first case, her grandmother petitioned for her to become a U.S. citizen, but her grandmother passed away as her application was being processed. Then when Kiazolu turned 26 years old, she applied again but was told she had to wait seven years.”

She told Roll Call that “this last year has been very anxiety ridden. It’s been hard to make long-term plans because this impacts every single part of your life. I’ve had to pass up job opportunities.” She’s not alone: Hundreds of thousands of others, including Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and Temporary Protected Status recipients, are also facing a similar predicament.

The courts have temporarily kept protections in place for some, but that’s not the case for Liberian immigrants right now. Alleging “intentional discrimination,” they have sued the Trump administration. “Without legal action,” tweeted Jonathan Jayes-Green of immigrant advocacy group UndocuBlack Network, “thousands of Liberians who have been in the US for decades will lose status and be vulnerable to deportation.”

Kiazolu is depending on relief, and ultimately permanent relief in the form of the newly introduced Dream and Promise Act of 2019, and appeared before Congress earlier this month to press for urgency. “I was very happy when my parents were able to adjust their status, and everyone around me is very supportive,” she said. But “it’s often hard because in my personal life I am the only one I know that is going through this.”

 

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