The United States government announced on Wednesday that it will be offering work permits and deportation protection to hundreds of thousands of Venezuelan migrants who are currently living in the country, regardless of their legal status. This decision comes at a time when the number of migrants arriving at the southern border is only increasing, causing overwhelmed officials to take drastic measures to deal with the ongoing crisis.
The Temporary Protected Status (TPS) program, which allows foreign nationals to apply for work permits and deportation protection, will be extended for 18 months for Venezuelans who arrived on or before July 31 of this year. This is a significant change from the previous extension in 2020, which did not allow for new applicants. The Biden administration estimates that this decision will protect around 472,000 Venezuelans currently living in the U.S.
While TPS is typically designated for countries experiencing armed conflict or environmental disasters, officials cited “extraordinary and temporary conditions” as the reason for this redesignation. However, this decision is also seen as a response to the overwhelming pressure from cities such as New York, which have been struggling to handle the influx of migrants. New York City officials declared themselves overwhelmed by the more than 110,000 migrants that have arrived in the city, leading them to demand that the federal government take action to relieve the burden.
This announcement comes on the same day as a major surge of predominantly Venezuelan single adults arrived in Eagle Pass, Texas, causing officials to close the main bridge into the city to focus on processing the surging number of migrants. Across the border, the number of migrant encounters is also increasing, with over 180,000 encounters reported in July and an estimated 230,000 in August. This week alone, officials have made over 45,000 encounters, leading to street releases and targets for “bookouts” to relieve overcrowding.
Critics of the decision have expressed concern that the redesignation of TPS for Venezuela will only attract more migrants to the southern border. CBP sources told Fox News that this announcement will only compound the ongoing crisis, as migrants will see the “pull” factor of being granted TPS status and the ability to obtain work authorization. Republicans and other immigration hawks have blamed the current surge on the Biden administration’s policies, stating that the rollback of Trump-era border protections and the increase in “catch-and-release” are the main causes.
The Biden administration pushed back, stating that it is Congress’s responsibility to provide more funding and pass comprehensive immigration reform legislation that includes a permanent pathway to citizenship for TPS recipients. Additionally, the administration highlighted their efforts to increase enforcement measures, including the restoration of expedited removal and the implementation of an asylum bar for those who cross illegally. They also stated that they have removed or returned over 253,000 migrants since Title 42 ended on May 12.
In response to the ongoing crisis, the administration announced additional measures, including the deployment of 800 active-duty personnel to assist with logistics and expand holding capacity in facilities by 3,000. They also announced accelerated processing for employment authorization documents and extended their validity period for some applicants to five years.
Overall, the Biden administration’s decision to redesignate TPS for Venezuela has sparked both praise and criticism, as the situation at the southern border continues to escalate. Only time will tell if this decision will help alleviate the crisis or attract even more migrants to the U.S. in search of work permits and deportation protection.