DORAL, Fla. – President Joe Biden’s administration granted Venezuelans who are living in the United States a Temporary Protected Status, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced on Monday.
Helena Poleo said this impacts a large community of migrants in South Florida who fled the crisis in Venezuela. They are thriving in both Miami-Dade and Broward counties.
Many of them were undocumented. Now the TPS, which can be renewed every 18 months, not only grants them employment authorization, but also the ability to travel in and out of the U.S.
“It allows you to travel back to Venezuela because it has absolutely nothing to do with political asylum,” said Poleo, a journalist who comes from a family who has long opposed the government’s censorship of independent media in Venezuela.
Former President Donald Trump signed an order on his last day in office to defer the deportation of Venezuelans for 18 months. Venezuelan migrants’ advocates said this wasn’t enough and were counting on Biden to issue the protection.
“Trump had four years to do this, but the Republican Party’s xenophobia got in the way of doing what is right,” Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz said in a statement, adding the protection was “compassionate.”
There have been efforts in Congress to help the Venezuelan community. In the House, Rep. Darren Soto introduced the bipartisan Venezuela TPS Act of 2021 on Jan. 4. Sen. Robert Menendez, the chairman of the foreign relations committee, introduced a companion bill on Jan. 26.
Senators Rick Scott and Marco Rubio celebrated Biden’s decision, but they both believe there is a need for action to ensure that the migrants’ temporary status in the U.S. does not become a permanent one.
“Great news for the Venezuelan people,” Scott wrote. “We must continue to do everything in our power to save Venezuela from this tyrannical dictator.”
Also happy about the news was Carlos Uribe and his family, who live in South Florida.
“I’m very happy,” he told Local 10 News.
South Florida Venezuelan activist Patricia Andrade said TPS will be a great help for her community. She also expressed concern over what this move could mean for the White House’s approach on Venezuelan dictator Nicolas Maduro and his oppressive regime.
“The Biden Administration say okey, the Venezuelans are happy and I’m going to work on other things and now about Venezuela,” Andrade said. “Venezuela is in a crisis everyday, deeper and deeper.”
The United Nations estimates the crisis in Venezuela has displaced about 5.4 million people. Sarah Sheffer, a spokeswoman for Refugees International, an organization in Washington, D.C. said in a statement that the need for the protection had been clear for years.
“Since 2017, Venezuelans have filed more affirmative asylum claims than any other nationality group in the United States,” Sheffer wrote. “Recently, a growing number of Venezuelans have also sought protection at the U.S-Mexico border.”
Here is the list of countries the U.S. has currently designated for TPS: