The Biden administration on Monday announced that it would extend—but not expand—temporary protections for Venezuelan immigrants who have fled the Maduro dictatorship and are already in the U.S. While extended Temporary Protected Status (TPS) will ensure another 18 months of deportation protection for families at risk of being sent back to a humanitarian, political, and economic crisis, the Biden administration missed a major chance to ensure safety for an estimated 250,000 people who have arrived since last year’s announcement but have not been eligible to apply.
“As someone who left Venezuela due to political persecution and the crumbling infrastructure, I am very pleased to learn that the Biden administration is extending Temporary Protected Status for my country,” said political refugee and TPS applicant Andrés Zambrano in a statement received by Daily Kos. “However, it is with great sadness that I also receive the news that the administration is not redesignating it. It feels like they are doing the absolute least. While I may be protected, thousands of my compatriots will not.”
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The Biden administration had until July 11 to make a decision on whether or not to extend TPS, which is applied in circumstances when affected people are unable to return to their home countries due to natural disasters or civil unrest, as in Venezuela’s case. This relief, announced in March 2021, is set to expire this fall. But families and advocates had also been urging the administration to expand eligibility to thousands more who have fled the Maduro regime since the announcement but couldn’t apply due to the cutoff date.
Virginia, who lives in South Florida, told CBS News Miami that Venezuela “worsens daily.” She left after losing a local election there. She said in the report that the Maduro and his allies “attack whoever opposes them. And this time was no different." Support for redesignating TPS also came from Rep. Charlie Crist and state Sen. Annette Taddeo, who said “the United States must do everything in its power to support the Venezuelan people fleeing this oppressive regime and offer them a better chance at life.”
Other lawmakers on Monday welcomed the news of the extension but expressed disappointment that the administration had not expanded relief, which it had every ability to do. The administration was likely seeking to placate anti-immigrant Republicans who will continue to spout “open border” lies anyway.
“Since last March, hundreds of thousands of those refugees have arrived in the United States. Based on today’s announcement, these refugees will inexplicably be ineligible for TPS, the legal protection Congress designed for refugees who cannot safely return home,” Sen. Robert Menendez said in a statement received by Daily Kos. Not only would this relief protect immigrants from deportation, it would allow them to work legally to support themselves and their families. “Today’s decision relegates hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans into a life of vulnerability and marginalization in the United States,” he continued.
Florida Immigrant Coalition Co-executive Director Isabel Vinent said in a statement received by Daily Kos that more than half of TPS-eligible Venezuelans live in Florida. While Republican Marco Rubio applauded the Biden administration’s TPS decision last year and now supported an extension, he didn’t support expanding protections to more families because of “our southern border,” Politico had reported. Rubio won while families lost.
Vinent and other advocates also called on the Biden administration to enact this same relief for Black immigrants from Mauritania and Ethiopia, which are also facing dire humanitarian crises.
“Similarly, the Biden administration should also designate TPS for Mauritania and Ethiopia while individuals and families from these countries living in the U.S. would face terrible harms, including violence and the threat of enslavement, if they were forced to return,” said FWD.us Director of Digital Campaigns Juan Escalante, a former Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipient born in Venezuela. “Lawmakers in Congress must act without any further delay to protect Venezuelans living with TPS and all undocumented individuals who are contributing to our country every single day, and who deserve to live in safety.”
“As many Venezuelans escape the Maduro regime and look to this country as a safe haven, how are we protecting them?” Zambrano continued in the statement. “Venezuelans like me don’t have any other recourse, we cannot go back to our country for the foreseeable future. We want to work, we want to contribute, and we need to be safe and protected.”
“The 18-month extension of TPS for Venezuela will be effective from September 10, 2022, through March 10, 2024,” said the Department of Homeland Security. “Only beneficiaries under Venezuela’s existing designation, and who were already residing in the United States as of March 8, 2021, are eligible to re-register for TPS under this extension. Venezuelans who arrived in the United States after March 8, 2021, are not eligible for TPS. Approximately 343,000 individuals are estimated to be eligible for TPS under the existing designation of Venezuela.”
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