U.S. Offers Nearly Half-a-Million Venezuelan Migrants Legal Status and Work Permits


In a recent move, the Biden administration has given nearly 500,000 Venezuelan migrants the option to live and work in the U.S. legally. This decision comes as a response to calls from cities grappling with the influx of asylum-seekers in need of housing.

On Wednesday, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) extended the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Venezuelan migrants. This enables new arrivals to seek protection from deportation and work permits. Initially, only those who arrived before March 2021 were eligible for this program, established by Congress in 1990 to assist migrants from nations in crisis.

The expansion means that a record number of Venezuelans who've made their way to the U.S. in the past two years can now apply for TPS. DHS statistics project that around 472,000 additional Venezuelans will qualify, adding to the 242,000 already benefiting. However, post-July arrivals will not be eligible.

Alejandro Mayorkas, the Homeland Security Secretary, stated that TPS aims to shield individuals in the U.S. from deportation when returning home becomes hazardous. "This is precisely the predicament of Venezuelans who got here on or prior to July 31," he added.

The majority benefiting from this policy will be over 400,000 Venezuelan migrants. In recent times, Venezuela has seen an exodus of more than seven million people escaping economic collapse and authoritative governance. Though many have resettled in other South American nations, an increasing number are undertaking perilous journeys towards better prospects in the U.S.

This decision has been hailed as a significant win for congressional Democrats and big city leaders like those in New York, who've been advocating for legal statuses to enable faster legal employment for migrants. Addressing the situation, New York Mayor Eric Adams expressed his gratitude to President Biden for this step, emphasizing the importance of TPS for the numerous Venezuelan asylum-seekers in New York.

However, the Biden administration's use of TPS has been groundbreaking. Apart from Venezuelans, they've extended this to migrants from various nations including Afghanistan, Haiti, and Myanmar. Despite preserving long-standing TPS programs for countries like El Salvador and Nepal, this has faced criticism from Republicans who argue its misuse in granting indefinite legal status to migrants, some of whom might have entered illegally.

The administration has been wary of expanding TPS for nations like Nicaragua, fearing it might incentivize illegal crossings at the U.S.-Mexico border. When questioned about the potential of the policy leading to increased migration, officials highlighted the importance of the July cut-off date. "The deadline of July 31, 2023, reinforces that post this date, TPS won't be available," emphasized a senior DHS official.

The Biden administration has observed record-breaking illegal crossings at the southern border. Although there was a dip in June, the numbers escalated in July and August. To further address this issue and concerns of cities like New York, the administration unveiled additional measures. One such step is the acceleration of work permit reviews for migrants arriving at border entry points through technology-assisted methods. Their goal is to judge these applications within a month, a significant decrease from the earlier 90-day period.

Moreover, DHS plans to prolong the validity of work permits from two years to five for several migrants. This effort is expected to reduce the renewal applications the agency needs to process.

Contributed By Sana Mubashar

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