Biden extends legal status protections for thousands of Venezuelans in the US

·3 min read

President Joe Biden’s administration has extended temporary legal residency status for thousands of eligible Venezuelans living in the US through 2024 amid pleas from immigration advocacy groups that the administration grant relief to a wider group of migrants in the wake of a years-long humanitarian crisis driving migration to the US.

The US Department of Homeland Security announced on 11 July that it would extend Temporary Protected Status designations to Venezuelans who already were living in the US as of March 2021, extending their work permit eligibility and protections against deportation proceedings.

But roughly 250,000 Venezuelans who arrived after that date will not be eligible for protections through the programme.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement announcing the extension that the administration “will continue to work with our international partners to address the challenges of regional migration while ensuring our borders remain secure.”

The extension is effective from 10 September through 10 March 2024 and will apply to roughly 343,000 people.

More than 6 million people have fled Venezuela following a years-long humanitarian crisis marked by political instability and a lack of access to food and medicine, according to the United Nations.

The Biden administration initially opened TPS eligiblity to Venezuelan migrants in March 2021, recognising the “turmoil” in the South American nation.

A letter from Democratic Senators Chris Van Hollen and Bob Mendendez to the Biden administration last week said that in the months that followed, “threats to civilians by armed actors, the complete erosion of the rule of law, and the systemic collapse of vital infrastructure have forced nearly half a million additional people to flee the country.”

US Customs and Border Protection has recorded more than 97,000 encounters with Venezuelan nationals at the US-Mexico border since October 2021, according to the agency. There were 48,678 encounters in the 2021 fiscal year.

“Many of us who are in the United States are not here necessarily because we wanted to leave Venezuela but because we were forced by circumstances,” said Carlos Vecchio, ambassador to the US for Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido, in a statement. “Many of them because they are looking for a future that is no longer possible in Venezuela, but also many others who were persecuted by the regime.”

Mr Vecchio has called on the Biden administration to amend the temporary protected status extension to include Venezuelans who entered the US after March 2021.

“Since they are already here, the best way to [affirm their status] and … contribute to the economy of the United States is that this redesignation can be made,” he added, as per a translation by the Miami Herald.

Juan Escalante, the director of digital campaigns for immigration advocacy group FWD.us, said in a statement on FWD.us’s website that the organisation is disappointed in the administration’s decision to deny extended protections to thousands of other Venezeulans.

“Instead, these community members will now be at risk of being deported to a country in chaos where they continue to face unsafe conditions, placing them at extreme risk of violence and even death,” said Mr Escalante, who was born in Venezuela and received protections through the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals programme, or DACA.

“My native homeland remains in terrible unrest, and the Venezuelans like my parents who have built their lives here – and all people seeking the right to live in safety with their families and communities – should be able to live with some measure of certainty and stability,” he continued.

Advocates have also pressed members of Congress to pass permanent protections through legislation.