The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced on March 8 that Venezuelan nationals present in the United States would be eligible to apply for Temporary Protected Status (TPS). The TPS designation provides immigration status to many Venezuelans for the next 18 months. At least 200,000 Venezuelans are expected to be eligible.

TPS was created by Congress in 1990 and protects people from designated foreign countries from having to return to unsafe conditions due to armed conflict, environmental disasters, or extraordinary conditions.

Venezuela’s government has created uninhabitable conditions. The country faces disparaging inequality that has created an ongoing economic crisis and has suffered from failed attempts to replace the authoritarian regime of President Nicolas Maduro. Along with continued surges in COVID-19 numbers, Venezuela’s humanitarian and health crises have forced many nationals to seek refuge in the U.S.

This TPS designation comes months after the Trump administration was found to be deporting Venezuelans secretly through a third country, despite a ban on all direct air travel to the country. The day before he left office, Trump announced Deferred Enforcement Departure (DED) for Venezuelans, but no further details about how to benefit from this program had been made until now.

To qualify for TPS, Venezuelans must be physically present and residing in the United States as of March 8, 2021 and not be subject to certain bars based on past criminal history. Once granted status, the primary benefits are protection from deportation while Venezuela is designated for TPS, work authorization, and the ability to travel abroad with advance permission and return to the United States.

The announcement also explained how Venezuelans could apply and benefit from DED, which requires presence in the United States since January 19, 2021.

DED and TPS are similar programs, but DED does not provide any formal immigration status; it merely protects eligible nationals from deportation. People with DED must apply separately for work authorization.

TPS has been proven to have positive economic benefits for individuals and their communities. TPS holders participate at high levels in the workforce and make large contributions to the tax base, Social Security, and Medicare. Additionally, over the past decade the TPS workforce has added over $45.2 billion in GDP. These are important statistics as the U.S. continues to recover amid the pandemic.

On the campaign trail, Biden promised to offer TPS to eligible Venezuelans. This announcement has been welcomed by Democrats and Republicans alike. Both sides have acknowledged the importance of the administration’s move and need to shield the Venezuelan people from harm back home.

Though TPS offers immediate relief for Venezuelan nationals, the administration will need to revisit the designation as the 18-month period nears expiration to decide to extend or terminate the status.

There are many countries in need of new and restored TPS designations. But an announcement like this just six weeks into the new administration that benefits so many people already in the U.S. is a welcome development. It also marks a dramatic shift away from the punitive approach of the Trump administration to one that is more welcoming and protective.


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