Afomu Kelley was just 11 years old when she left Liberia with her mother in the early days of a civil war in 1990. She remembers standing in a crowd jostling to board an airplane to the United States for what she thought would be a six-week vacation.
Instead, the war in Liberia escalated and Kelley, now 40, never returned to the West African country. She grew up in Northern Virginia, where she finished high school early, and attended the University of Maryland. She has an American accent. Sometimes she doesn’t feel like an immigrant.
But at the end of this month, she may be forced to return to a homeland she barely remembers.
On March 31, the program [Temporary Protected Status] that has allowed Kelley and more than 800 other Liberian immigrants to live legally in the United States for decades will end, the result of President Trump’s decision to terminate a protection against deportation that has been in place for nearly 28 years.
“It is cruel to tell me that I have to go back to a place that I don’t know,” said Kelley, who lives in Greenbelt, Md., with her daughters, ages 9 and 11. “I don’t even know the street I lived on. But I can tell you every diner between here and New Hampshire.”
From the Washington Post
What is Temporary Protected Status?
Per the Migration Policy Institute, TPS allows nationals of certain countries to temporarily live and work lawfully in the United States if DHS determines that they are unable to safely return due to natural disaster, armed conflict, or other extraordinary and temporary circumstances. TPS can be granted for periods of six to 18 months, after which DHS, with the input of the State Department, re-evaluates the designation. If country conditions still threaten the safety of returning nationals, or if the foreign government is unable to handle returns.
Many persons have held TPS for almost two decades, and have established strong community ties in the United States. Currently, ten countries have TPS, with Salvadorans making up 60 percent of the nearly 437,000 TPS recipients.
On October 3, 2018, a federal court judge in California issued a preliminary injunction blocking the Trump administration from terminating TPS for over 250,000 immigrants from El Salvador, Nicaragua, Haiti and Sudan. The ruling came in response to a lawsuit filed in March 2018, claiming that the government terminated TPS designations as a result of a predetermined agenda and in violation of the law. The ruling is on appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
On March 1, 2019, DHS issued a notice in the Federal Register stating that while the preliminary injunction is in place, the affected TPS holders will retain their status and work permits through January 2, 2020. DHS will continue to extend the validity of their immigration documents in nine-month intervals. Also, it states once the litigation is completed, and if the courts have issued a final ruling that the terminations were proper, DHS will allow for a 120-day “orderly transition” period.