By Michael Matza, Staff Writer/Philly.com
Four years ago, Tenneh Harris, a divorced midwife from Liberia, came to the United States on a 90-day visitor visa but never returned to her West African home. Of America’s estimated 11.2 million immigrants who are here illegally, 40 percent become undocumented in the same way, by overstaying visas.
Harris, however, had one thing on her side: the Ebola contagion.
The 2014-2015 epidemic that ravaged Liberia made her eligible for a humanitarian program of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which deferred her deportation and gave her permission to work. After paying the $515 application fee, she obtained Temporary Protected Status (TPS). Presto, she was documented again.
Since then, Ebola in West Africa has abated. Now, Liberians like Harris are being told they must leave the U.S. by May 21 – the day their work permits expire, and they become undocumented again.