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Posted under: News

A Ph.D. Student Is Facing Deportation To Liberia, A Country She's Never Visited

The Botswana native fears her life will be completely disrupted.

A Ph.D. candidate at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) is facing deportation to Liberia, a country she's never visited.

According to the Los Angeles Times, 28-year-old Yatta Kiazolu is set to graduate from UCLA where she is studying to receive her doctorate in history in the fall. However, she may not earn her degree and could be forced back to Liberia due to a recent decision by President Donald Trump.

Kiazolu was born in Botswana to Liberian parents, but she has lived in the United States since she was 7 years old. Under the deferred enforced departure (DED) program she has been able to study and work in the country. DED is an initiative allowing immigrants to reside within a nation for a designated period. Liberia has been designated for DED since 1991.

The authorization, which exists at the discretion of the president, is set to end on March 31. Trump began moving to dismantle DED last spring, citing Liberians no longer needed the protection of the United States. The West African country was mired by nearly back-to-back civil wars from 1989 to 1991 and experienced a deadly Ebola outbreak in 2014, displacing 350,000 citizens.

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The Trump administration was sued earlier in the month by civil rights advocates who say the program's termination is racially motivated.

On March 6, Kiazolu spoke to the House Judiciary Committee as one of the plaintiffs, advocating for her right to live in the country.

She noted her "entire life would be disrupted" if she was forced to return to a place she does not call home. 

“My grandmother used to say, ‘When you do good, you don’t do it for yourself — you do it for God.’ And with that philosophy as my personal mantra, though the majority of my family are now permanent residents and U.S. citizens, I’m here for all the working-class immigrants on DED, TPS and [who] are also Dream-eligible,” she said. “I’m here for all the young people like myself who have anxiety about their futures.”

Kiazolu's parents sent her to live in Decatur, Georgia, with her grandmother in 1997. Per Roll Call, she has tried to apply for citizenship twice. Her grandmother, who is a U.S. citizen, also applied on her behalf but passed away before the application was processed. 

With few avenues for citizenship, Kiazolu has found it difficult to "make long-term plans." Updates regarding her status are pending. 

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Los Angeles based freelance writer, poet, self-care hippie and reformed cat lady.