Temporary legal status extended for hundreds of thousands from Venezuela

Homeland Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas testifies during a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing to discuss the President’s FY 2023 budget for the department on Wednesday, May 4, 2022.
Greg Nash
Homeland Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas testifies during a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing to discuss the President’s FY 2023 budget for the department on Wednesday, May 4, 2022.

The Biden administration on Monday extended immigration protections for more than 340,000 Venezuelans in the United States, who will be able to live and work in the country until at least March of 2024.

The expected announcement to extend Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Venezuelans will be a welcome respite for Venezuelans currently enrolled or eligible for the program, but it will leave tens of thousands more Venezuelans in the lurch, liable to be deported back to the impoverished South American country.

Democrats had pleaded with the Biden administration to extend and redesignate TPS for Venezuelans, making a humanitarian and political case for the expanded protections.

The Department of Homeland Security had until Monday to say whether it would renew the existing designation, but the administration also had the option to redesignate Venezuela, granting TPS benefits to all Venezuelans who arrived on U.S. soil since the first designation.

But Homeland Security specified in its TPS announcement Monday that only Venezuelans present in the United States before March 8, 2021, are eligible for the program.

Under TPS, citizens of a country undergoing human-made or natural disasters are allowed to stay and work in the United States as long as the federal government extends their home country’s designation.

Shortly after Biden took office, the administration was quick to designate Venezuela for TPS, a move that former President Trump had avoided despite being overtly critical of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro.

“As one of my first actions as Secretary, I designated Venezuela for TPS,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement on Monday.

“After careful consideration, and in consultation with the Secretary of State, today I am extending that designation. This action is one of many ways the Biden administration is providing humanitarian support to Venezuelans at home and abroad, together with our regional partners. We will continue to work with our international partners to address the challenges of regional migration while ensuring our borders remain secure,” he added.

Many Democrats had hoped the administration would take a similar attitude toward Venezuelans not covered by the original designation, allowing them to score points with voters close to the Venezuelan diaspora in places like Florida.

On Thursday, Rep. Charlie Crist (D-Fla.) and Florida state Sen. Annette Taddeo (D), both of whom are running in high-profile races in the Sunshine State, called on the Biden administration to expand Venezuelan TPS.

Crist, who is leading the Democratic primary to challenge Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), and Taddeo, the front-runner in the Democratic primary to challenge Rep. María Elvira Salazar (R-Fla.), both said a TPS expansion would help Democrats win over Hispanic constituencies in the state.

And on Friday, 21 Democratic senators led by Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez (D-Fla.) called on Mayorkas and Secretary of State Antony Blinken to redesignate Venezuela for TPS.

“An estimated 250,000 Venezuelans arrived in the United States in 2021 and during the first half of 2022 – a fraction of the total number of displaced Venezuelans in the region,” they wrote in a letter.

“Denying access to TPS to more recent arrivals will not serve as an effective deterrent to future border crossings given the desperation of Venezuelans to flee unsustainable conditions. It will simply ensure that Venezuelans will live in poverty and at risk of deportation in the United States, with no other options,” they added.

Immigration advocates on Monday were generally pleased with the extension announced by the Department of Homeland Security, but said the administration had missed an opportunity in not redesignating Venezuela.

“While the administration’s decision to extend TPS for Venezuela is welcomed and warranted given the deteriorating conditions in the country, we are extremely disappointed that the administration chose to not act on redesignation,” said Sergio Gonzales, executive director of The Immigration Hub, a pro-immigrant advocacy group.

“Plain and simple, the Biden administration made the wrong decision today and missed the opportunity to ensure the safety of thousands of Venezuelans fleeing the Maduro regime and reinforce its leadership and commitment in the Western Hemisphere,” added Gonzales.

Tags Alejandro Mayorkas Alejandro Mayorkas Biden DHS Immigration Nicolas Maduro TPS Venezuela

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