President Biden delivered on a promise to protect Venezuelans
seeking refuge in the United States to escape the humanitarian
crisis, economic collapse, and political turmoil back home. However, there's still more work to be done.
Immigration: Temporary Protected Status extended for eligible Venezuelans
By Yvonne H. Valdez
The Biden administration is extending Venezuela’s designation for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for 18 months, according to a statement released by Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas this week.
This extension will be effective from Sept. 10, 2022, to March 10, 2024.
“As one of my first actions as Secretary, I designated Venezuela for TPS,” Mayorkas announced.
“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.”
About 343,000 people are estimated to be eligible for TPS under Venezuela’s existing designation.
However, only beneficiaries under the 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.
Those who arrived in the United States after March 8, 2021, are not eligible for TPS, even now after the extension.
That is an issue, some say. Carlos Vecchio, Venezuela’s ambassador to the United States, was one of the first to applaud the extension but, at the same time, the first to regret that the proposal for the redesignation was not implemented.
“We thank the Biden administration for extending TPS for Venezuelans,” Vecchio said in a statement. “Protection and solidarity towards Venezuelan refugees are necessary and important. We regret that for now the proposal for the redesignation has not been implemented.”
Others highlighted the danger that many Venezuelans may face if forced to return to the country.
“While I am pleased with this essential extension, I strongly urge the President to offer that same refuge to Venezuelans who arrived after that same date, because nothing has changed in Venezuela and, in fact, it has only gotten worse,” South Florida Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz said in a statement. “They, too, live in the same fear of being forced to return to the brutal and repressive state of Maduro, and their safety is as vital as we all work to restore democracy and peace in Venezuela.”
Another who immediately turned to social media to celebrate the extension but also lament the non-redesignation was Helene Villalonga, a Sunrise resident and Venezuelan activist who is president and founder of AMAVEX (Asociación Multicultural de Activistas Voz y Expresión) and Sunrise resident.
“It is estimated that there are more than 250,000 people who entered between March 2021 to date,” Villalonga told the South Florida Sun Sentinel. “Either they would have given Venezuela the redesignation or the renewal of the Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) ... there is a fraction that is left out, and that is a reason for concern.”
The Department of Homeland Security is also implementing the DED for Venezuela until Wednesday, July 20, for Venezuelan citizens and persons without nationality who resided in Venezuela before coming to the United States.
The government, however, encourages people who are covered under DED status to apply for TPS.
Another confusion stemming from the recent announcement: TPS has been extended, but not the application deadline. The TPS application deadline for Venezuelans remains Sept. 9.
According to Villalonga, those who have not yet applied must do so immediately because they need to consider that immigration “could return the application if they did not fill it out correctly, or did not sign something, or if they have something missing in the application.”
If any of these scenarios were to happen, they could miss the Sept. 9 deadline and be left out, Villalonga said.
Additionally, those who already have TPS must request an extension. Even “those who are in the process have to file the extensions to continue qualifying,” said Brian Becker, an immigration attorney based in Boca Raton.
Vecchio had been hard at work formally requesting the TPS extension for Venezuelans in the United States, as well as the automatic extension of work permits for both TPS and political asylum applicants.
Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, led an effort on July 8 with 21 of his colleagues to urge the Biden administration to continue protecting displaced Venezuelans through the extension and redesignation of Venezuela for Temporary Protected Status.
“The Maduro regime has continued to perpetuate crimes against humanity, has turned a blind eye to the forced recruitment of children, has generated an increase in the number of refugees and displaced persons, has exacerbated food insecurity and has limited access to water, health care, and humanitarian assistance…” the senators wrote in a July 8 letter addressed to Mayorkas and Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
“We ask that you acknowledge the deteriorating conditions in Venezuela since the March 8, 2021 designation and take the necessary steps to extend and reallocate Venezuela for TPS.”
Following this week’s announcement, Menendez said he was “disappointed and surprised by the lack of TPS redesignation” to expand eligibility for the program.
“Nearly half a million Venezuelans have fled their country since the TPS designation last year, bringing the total number of Venezuelan refugees to more than 6 million.
Since last March, hundreds of thousands of those refugees have arrived in the U.S. According to [the] announcement, these refugees will inexplicably be ineligible for TPS,” the senator said in a statement.
Established by the U.S. Congress in 1990, TPS is a temporary, renewable program that provides relief from deportation and access to work permits for eligible immigrants who are unable to return safely to their home countries due to natural disasters, conflicts, armed or other extraordinary conditions.
Immigrants from more than a dozen countries are eligible under the program. Among others are El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Venezuela.