The Biden administration is facing increased pressure from Democrats on Capitol Hill to expand and extend temporary protections for Venezuelan exiles in the United States.
Officials face a deadline on Monday to make a decision on whether to offer Temporary Protection Status to an estimated 250,000 Venezuelans currently ineligible because they arrived in the U.S. after the March 2021 eligibility date. Officials in the White House have expressed concern that a TPS redesignation would incentivize more migration to the U.S. southern border and prompt fresh criticism from Republicans on the president’s handling of immigration policy.
But a group of 22 Democratic senators, led by Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), on Friday dismissed those concerns head-on in a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.“Denying access to TPS to more recent arrivals will not serve as an effective deterrent to future border crossings given the desperation of Venezuelans to flee unsustainable conditions,” the senators said in the letter first shared with POLITICO. “It will simply ensure that Venezuelans will live in poverty and at risk of deportation in the United States, with no other options.”
The lawmakers want the administration to redesignate TPS to apply to more recently-arrived Venezuelans. They also want an extension of TPS as the current protections are set to expire in September.
The letter was signed by all of the Democratic senators who ran for president in 2020, including: Sens. Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Kirsten Gillibrand, Amy Klobuchar, Cory Booker and Michael Bennet. Other co-signers included Sens. Dick Durbin, who chairs the Judiciary Committee that has jurisdiction over immigration legislation, and Alex Padilla, who sits on the committee.
In the letter, the senators reminded that protections for Venezuelan immigrants have long received bipartisan support. On his last full day in office, former President Donald Trump used the little-known Deferred Enforced Departure program, or DED, to offer temporary legal status to Venezuelans fleeing the humanitarian crisis brought on by Nicolás Maduro’s regime.
President Joe Biden first granted TPS for Venezuelan exiles in March 2021, fulfilling one of his long-standing campaign promises. TPS provides people from countries devastated by natural disasters, armed conflicts or other “extraordinary” conditions the ability to live and work in the U.S. legally.
The humanitarian crisis in Venezuela has only worsened since the Biden administration first granted TPS for Venezuelans last year. More than 6 million refugees and migrants have left the country as a result, according to the United Nations.
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