Eligible Venezuelans will be able to live in the United States with temporary protected status for another 18 months, the Biden administration announced Monday, although Venezuelans who have arrived in the country after March 8, 2021, will not be eligible for the immigration relief.
“This action is one of many ways the Biden administration is providing humanitarian support to Venezuelans at home and abroad, together with our regional partners,” said Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.
Venezuelans in South Florida celebrated the Biden administration’s decision to renew TPS, a humanitarian protection for which about 343,000 Venezuelans in the United States are eligible that allows them to temporarily live and work in the United States. The protection for Venezuelans was first announced in March 2021, and was set to expire in September.
“This extension not only protects Venezuelans here from being thrown into legal limbo within the United States, but also by protecting them from being transferred back to Venezuela, it allows them to safeguard their lives and physical integrity,” said José Antonio Colina, the head of Miami-based Politically Persecuted Venezuelans in Exile.
But the Biden administration did not update the designation to a later date from the program’s original March 8, 2021, cutoff, which Florida lawmakers, Venezuelan immigrants and immigration activists hoped it would.
“Only beneficiaries under Venezuela’s existing designation … are eligible to re-register for TPS under this extension,” said the Department of Homeland Security in a statement.
Since October alone, U.S. Customs and Border Protection has had 97,696 encounters with Venezuelan nationals at the U.S.-Mexico border, according to agency data. That number is already much higher than in fiscal years 2020 and 2021, when there were 2,787 encounters and 48,678 encounters respectively.
“We believe that it is necessary to redesignate the date for the benefit of Venezuelans who entered after March 2021. … Since they are already here, the best way to regularize (their immigration status) and for them to contribute to the economy of the United States is that this redesignation can be made,” said Carlos Vecchio, ambassador to the United States for Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó.
Over six million people have fled Venezuela, which faces a years-long humanitarian crisis as its population struggles for access to food, medicine and basic supplies. Eighty percent of Venezuelan migrants and refugees have landed in 17 Latin American and Caribbean countries, according to the International Organization for Migration.
“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. 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,” said Vecchio.
Several Miami and Florida officials had called on the Biden administration to renew Venezuela’s TPS designation and make more Venezuelans eligible.
Florida is home to some 207,600 people born in Venezuela, according U.S. Census Bureau data — over half of the United States’ Venezuela-born population. And Miami-Dade, Palm Beach, and Broward counties alone are home to more than 137,000 people born in the South American nation.
A July 5 letter from Miami-Dade state Sen. Annette Taddeo signed by dozens of Tallahassee legislators urged President Joe Biden and Mayorkas to make the cutoff date for TPS Dec. 31, 2021, more than nine months after the current one. The Democratic lawmaker also held a roundtable with Florida Rep. Charlie Crist at her Miami office last week, where South Florida Venezuelans spoke about why they had left their homeland and the importance of TPS.
On July 8, U.S. Rep. Darren Soto of Florida penned a bipartisan letter to Biden and Mayorkas also asking for a Dec. 31 arrival date. Miami-Dade and Broward members of Congress, including Mario Diaz-Balart, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Maria Elvira Salazar and Carlos A. Gimenez, also signed it. A day later, Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava joined the chorus of voices supporting a new TPS redesignation date for Venezuelans to include people who arrived after the original one.
“Miami-Dade County is poised to continue offering stability and opportunities to thousands of families striving for their chance at the American dream,” she wrote in a letter to Mayorkas.
Ernesto Ackerman, president of the Miami-based Independent Venezuelan-American Citizens, said TPS was “excellent” because it helped undocumented Venezuelans regularize their immigration status. But he questioned whether the Biden administration was doing enough to fight against the government of President Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela.
“We are seeing how the United States is freeing the nephew of Cilia Flores (Maduro’s wife) from the sanctions, so on the one hand they hit us with a whip and on the other hand they give us a lollipop,” he told the Miami Herald, “I understand the situation of the Venezuelans who are here, but I wonder if this TPS is helping the more than 22 million Venezuelans who remain in Venezuela to free themselves.”
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