Biden administration offers temporary protection to Venezuelan migrants

By: - September 21, 2023 11:01 am

Jheanpiere Contreras, Genesis Contreras and Daniel Soto, who two days ago arrived from Venezuela after crossing the U.S. border from Mexico, wait in line for dinner at a hotel provided by the Annunciation House on Sept. 22, 2022 in El Paso, Texas. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas announced late Wednesday that the agency will expand protected status to nearly half a million Venezuelan nationals, allowing them to live and work in the United States.

The move comes after multiple requests from cities that have struggled to house asylum seekers and calls from Democratic lawmakers to redesignate the Temporary Protected Status for Venezuela.

“Temporary protected status provides individuals already present in the United States with protection from removal when the conditions in their home country prevent their safe return,” Mayorkas said in a statement.

There are about 472,000 nationals of Venezuela who could be eligible for the designation for 18 months, Mayorkas said. In order to apply, applicants who are Venezuelan nationals, or individuals without nationality and have resided in Venezuela, must have been continually living in the U.S. since July 31 of this year.

Stateline reported recently that a surge of new arrivals from India, Venezuela and China, reflecting people with legal visas and those fleeing across the Southern border seeking asylum, helped bring more than 900,000 new immigrants to the U.S. between 2021 and 2022, according to a Stateline analysis of new census data.

Democrats praise announcement 

Congressional Democrats welcomed the announcement, especially leaders representing New York, where New York City Mayor Eric Adams has asked for federal help after more than 115,000 migrants of many nationalities arrived in the city over the past year.

Under federal law, asylum seekers who have submitted their application for asylum have to wait six months before they can apply for permission to work, but with the TPS redesignation, they can work more quickly.

“Our administration and our partners across the city have led the calls to ‘Let Them Work,’ so I want to thank President Biden for hearing our entire coalition, including our hard-working congressional delegation, and taking this important step that will bring hope to the thousands of Venezuelan asylum seekers currently in our care who will now be immediately eligible for Temporary Protected Status,” Adams said in a statement.

House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, both of New York, said in a joint statement that the redesignation will provide relief to New York, as “more than half of the immigrants in New York will be affected by this decision.”

“As a result of this decision, immigrants will be temporarily allowed to work, fill needed jobs and support their families while awaiting an asylum determination,” they said.

Sen. Bob Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey, who chairs the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, wrote on X, formerly Twitter, that he was pleased with the decision.

“It’s a historic victory for so many Venezuelans & their families in the U.S. who fled a brutal dictatorship in search of the American Dream,” he said. “It reflects our values as a nation, & will empower our Venezuelan communities to keep contributing to our economy & enriching the U.S.”

In a press release, DHS noted the redesignation is based on “Venezuela’s increased instability and lack of safety due to the enduring humanitarian, security, political, and environmental conditions.”

Previously, only Venezuelans who arrived in the U.S. before March 2021 qualified for TPS.

“We are accordingly granting them the protection that the law provides,” Mayorkas said. “However, it is critical that Venezuelans understand that those who have arrived here after July 31, 2023 are not eligible for such protection, and instead will be removed when they are found to not have a legal basis to stay.”

There are currently about 242,700 TPS recipients under Venezuela’s existing TPS designation, Mayorkas said.

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Ariana Figueroa
Ariana Figueroa

Ariana covers the nation's capital for States Newsroom. Her areas of coverage include politics and policy, lobbying, elections and campaign finance.