The Biden Administration announced Monday that it would grant temporary protected status to several hundred thousand Venezuelans who fled their country’s economic collapse.
Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas designated Venezuela for TPS for 18 months, until September 2022. An estimated 320,000 Venezuelans in the U.S. would be able to apply to legally live and work in the country for 18 months.
"The living conditions in Venezuela reveal a country in turmoil, unable to protect its own citizens," Mayorkas said in a statement. "It is in times of extraordinary and temporary circumstances like these that the United States steps forward to support eligible Venezuelan nationals already present here, while their home country seeks to right itself out of the current crises."
Several Florida lawmakers reacted to the announcement, which also included the intention to review U.S. sanctions intended to isolate Venezuela.
"The Biden Administration’s decision to provide TPS to Venezuelan nationals in Florida does not change the protections that were already provided to them under Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) during the Trump Administration," Republican Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart said in a statement.
Former President Donald Trump resisted repeated calls from Republican and Democratic lawmakers, primarily from South Florida, to grant temporary protected status to Venezuelans though he issued an order deferring deportation for a smaller number on his final day in office.
"...the Biden Administration has indicated that Venezuelans in the United States should still apply for TPS in case it decides to let the DED protections for Venezuelans expire. Therefore, rather than Venezuelans automatically being protected by DED, as they were under the Trump Administration, they will need to apply for TPS and pay a fee, which was not required under DED," Diaz-Balart said, adding that he will seek clarification on the status of DED for Venezuelans, particularly the procedures for obtaining work authorization.
Republican Congresswoman Maria Elvira Salazar said in a statement that she also supported DED.
"Today, I am glad to see that our Venezuelan exile community has been granted TPS through 2022," she said. "Nicolas Maduro is a murderous thug and I will always stand up for the victims of his socialist regime!"
Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz applauded the move, saying the administration's decision will provide "swift relief and security that the Venezuelan community needs."
"By using the law to lift the threat of deportation and grant employment authorization, the Biden Administration helps hundreds of thousands of families stay safe and earn a living without fear of being returned to Maduro’s dangerous and cruel regime," Wasserman Schultz said. "Donald Trump had four years to do this, but the Republican Party’s xenophobia got in the way of doing what is right."
Republican Sen. Marco Rubio welcomed the designation, saying in a statement, "Venezuela remains a nation in crisis. I have long advocated providing much-needed relief to help eligible Venezuelan nationals residing in the U.S. with a work permit and a temporary solution, which is exactly what the Trump Administration did earlier this year."
Republican Sen. Rick Scott had a similar position, saying the decision builds on Trump’s action with DED earlier this year.
"Hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans are fleeing the violence and starvation of Maduro’s socialist regime and the United States must stand with them," Scott said. "... I have tried to pass legislation on the Senate Floor multiple times that would immediately grant TPS to Venezuelans and make much-needed reforms to the program, but Senate Democrats have repeatedly blocked it."
Republicans in recent days had urged the Biden administration to formalize Trump's last-minute executive order that deferred deportation for 18 months for more than 145,000 Venezuelans who were at risk of being sent back to their homeland. Temporary protected status is a more formal status that cannot be as easily reversed.
People must show continued residency and pass a criminal background check to qualify for the status. Venezuelans must have arrived by Monday to be eligible.