SAN DIEGO (AP) — Hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans who fled their country’s humanitarian crisis and are in the United States under temporary legal protection will be allowed to remain for another 18 months, the Biden administration announced Monday.
But advocates expressed disappointment that the government has left another 250,000 Venezuelans who made it to the United States at risk of being sent back.
An estimated 343,000 Venezuelans already in the United States were given Temporary Protect Status, or TPS in March of 2021, allowing them the chance to legally live and work in the country for 18 months. Only they will be eligible for the extension that will run until March, 10, 2024.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas called it “one of many ways the Biden administration is providing humanitarian support to Venezuelans at home and abroad, together with our regional partners. We will continue to work with our international partners to address the challenges of regional migration while ensuring our borders remain secure.”
Advocates applauded the extension for those in the program, but said they were concerned about those who arrived after the cutoff date of March 8, 2021 and were not being given temporary protection. Anna Gallagher, executive director of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc., called the decision “misgiuded.” Her organization along with 200 others had petitioned the Biden administration to not leave out the others.
She added that the lack of action “will put hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans who fled seeking refuge at risk — in violation of humanitarian principles as well as what we, as Catholics, believe is our duty to shelter those in need.”
Venezuela is mired in a deep political, social and economic crisis attributed to plummeting oil prices and two decades of mismanagement by socialist governments. Millions live in poverty amid high food prices, medication shortages, low wages and four-digit inflation. That has pushed about 5 million Venezuelans to flee in the past few years, mostly to neighboring South American countries, but many have settled in South Florida.
Many of those who immigrated to the U.S. have applied for asylum and their cases are still making their way through the courts.
Immigrants from more than a dozen countries have become eligible for the program created in 1990 for people from nations stricken by civil strife or natural disasters. Short-term reprieves are often extended in increments of up to 18 months, leading many to describe it as anything but temporary.
About 200,000 El Salvadorans have had temporary status since 2001, after an earthquake hit the Central American country.
In addition to Venezuela, the Biden administration has created temporary status for people from Cameroon, Myanmar, Haiti, and Ukraine. President Joe Biden has been under increasing pressure from lawmakers of his Democratic Party to offer the protection to more immigrants from Latin America and Africa, who many say have been overlooked despite fleeing violence in their homelands.