Yatta Kiazolu, Ph.D. student faces deportation to Liberia, where she has never lived

By: Flomo Yarkpawolo

Come March 31, Liberian citizens on the Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) program will face the choice of returning to Liberia or staying in the United States and losing their work authorization and becoming an illegal immigrant. It is unclear how many Liberians currently hold DED status; however, the numbers range from 840 to 3,600. This is the result of President Trump’s decision to terminate a program that President Bush, President Clinton, President Bush and President Obama supported.

Yatta Kiazolu, a Ph.D. student in history at UCLA is one of the many Liberians facing deportation to Liberia. Kiazolu has never lived in Liberia. She was born in Botswana to Liberian parents and has a Liberian citizenship. Her family moved to the U.S. in 1997 when she was 6-year-old.

Kiazolu, 28-year-old, is one of thousands of Liberian citizenships who remain in the U.S. under the DED visa status program.  Since she’s been in the U.S., most of her family has been able to adjust their status to become U.S. citizens, but she hasn’t. Kiazolu said she tried on two occasions to apply for citizenship. 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. As an adult child of permanent residents in the U.S., she has fewer avenues to become a U.S. citizen.

Liberia, Africa’s first republic, was founded in 1822 because of the efforts of the American Colonization Society to settle freed American slaves in West Africa. The Republic of Liberia declared itself independent from a colony to a republic on July 26, 1847. The first ten presidents of Liberia, all African American men, were born in the United States of America.

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