The Liberian Refugee Immigration Fairness Program: Estimates of the Potentially Eligible

Donald Kerwin and Mike Nicholson

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The Liberian Refugee Immigration Fairness Program: Estimates of the Potentially Eligible

On December 20, 2019, the president signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020, which established the Liberian Refugee Immigration Fairness (“LRIF”) program. LRIF is the first US legalization program – creating a path to lawful permanent resident (LPR) status – in many years.  It applies to select Liberian nationals – most of them long-term US residents who qualified for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) based on the insecure conditions in Liberia – and their close family members.

To qualify, Liberian nationals must:

  • Apply by December 20, 2020;
  • Have been continuously present in the United States since November 20, 2014;
  • Be admissible or eligible for a waiver of inadmissibility or another form of relief;
  • Have not been convicted of an aggravated felony or two or more crimes of moral turpitude; and
  • Have not persecuted others on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.

Select family members are eligible if they:

  • Apply by December 20, 2020;
  • Are the spouse, an unmarried child under age 21, or an unmarried child 21 years or older of a qualifying Liberian national;
  • Are admissible, or eligible for a waiver of inadmissibility or another form of relief;
  • Have not been convicted of an aggravated felony or two or more crimes of moral turpitude; and
  • Have not persecuted others on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.

There is a significant risk that many eligible Liberians and their family members may not meet the application deadline due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and poor roll-out of the program. To highlight this concern, the Center for Migration Studies of New York (CMS) has produced estimates – rounded to the nearest hundred – of the Liberian nationals who arrived in 2014 or earlier, and who are not naturalized US citizens or LPRs, and of their non-US citizen, non-LPR spouses and unmarried children who are also potentially eligible to adjust under LRIF.  CMS has also estimated the number of essential workers among LRIF-eligible Liberian nationals, as well as their median personal and household incomes.  In particular, it estimates that:

  • 10,000 Liberian nationals are potentially eligible for LRIF, including 7,900 US critical essential infrastructure workers;
  • The median personal income of potential LRIF beneficiaries is $23,000 and the median household income is $46,000; and
  • An additional 100 spouses and 200 children of potential LRIF beneficiaries are potentially eligible as the family members of LRIF beneficiaries (Appendix A).

These estimates, of course, include persons that may be inadmissible or who are otherwise barred from the program.

Methodology

To arrive at these estimates, CMS used 2018 1-Year American Community Survey (ACS) data to identify Liberians without US citizenship or LPR status that arrived in the United States in 2014 or earlier. It then identified their spouses and unmarried children without citizenship or LPR status. These estimates only include spouses and children that lived with Liberians in 2018. All figures are rounded to the nearest 100.

CMS imputed LPR and citizenship status using 2018 1-Year ACS data. A description of CMS estimation procedures, as well as a discussion of the plausibility of the estimates, is provided in Warren (2020).

CMS’s estimates of essential workers encompass all persons in the labor force aged 16 and over who were employed in “essential critical infrastructure” categories, as defined by the US Department of Homeland Security, in 2018. A detailed description of CMS’s methodology for estimating essential workers is provided in Kerwin et al. 2020. 

DATA TABLE The Liberian Refugee Immigration Fairness Program: Estimates of the Potentially Eligible

DOWNLOAD APPENDIX A – DATA TABLE

 


June 12, 2020