Joe Biden will give almost half a million Venezuelan asylum seekers the legal right to live in the United States, as thousands arrive each day across the Mexican border.
The US Government’s Homeland Security Department said it would give “temporary protected status” to around 470,000 Venezuelans who arrived in the US by July 31, fleeing political and economic instability in their home country.
Democratic mayors have demanded that the White House do more to allow asylum seekers to work in the US, to avoid them relying on local authorities for assistance.
But Republicans say Mr Biden has been too relaxed about migration on the US’s southern border with Mexico, where thousands of crossings take place every day.
Such crossings have now reached near-record levels, according to unpublished federal data obtained by CBS News that showed Border Patrol agents apprehended around 6,900 migrants a day in the first 20 days of September.
The figures suggest migration into Texas and other southern states has increased by 60 per cent since July – fuelling political concerns about overcrowding in major cities and crime.
The total number of migrants arriving into the US this month is set to reach 210,000, just shy of the all-time record figure of 220,000, set in December 2022.
The change in legal status for Venezuelans will mean recent arrivals can apply for work permits, while temporary status already awarded to a quarter of a million people from the country will be extended.
The expansion of work permits will not apply to migrants who entered the US illegally to seek asylum, who are required by law to wait for six months to apply for a work permit.
Alejandro Mayorkas, the Homeland Security secretary, granted the expansion because of Venezuela’s “increased instability and lack of safety due to the enduring humanitarian, security, political, and environmental conditions,” the department said.
Strain on resources
Democratic officials in New York, Massachusetts and Chicago have complained about the strain that newly arrived migrants have put on their resources.
In New York, authorities are required to provide housing for anyone who requests it, including about 60,000 newly-arrived migrants. Those rules do not apply in other large cities in the US.
At least 7.3 million people have fled Venezuela in the last decade, amid a political, economic and humanitarian crisis that has made food and other necessities unaffordable for most.
The vast majority who fled settled in neighbouring countries in Latin America, but many have travelled to the US after crossing the Darien Gap, a treacherous stretch of jungle in Panama.
The latest figures show 80,000 people crossed the Darien Gap in August of this year alone.
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