Delivering the TPS Promise to Venezuelans

The Temporary Protection Status, promised in the election campaign by Joe Biden, could be very good news for many Venezuelans living in the U.S. without visas, green cards or American citizenship. What should we expect?

Photo: La Voz de América

In 2020, the U.S. election was a huge point of controversy among Venezuelans, especially those in American soil. One of the issues often discussed, along with the actual effectiveness of Trump’s policy towards the Maduro regime,  was whether Venezuelans could be granted a Temporary Protected Status considering the precarious living conditions and human rights violations that continue taking place in their home country. 

What are the real prospects of a TPS approval in 2021?

First, the basics: A Temporary Protection Status, or TPS, is a temporary immigration status provided to people of certain countries experiencing problems that make it difficult or unsafe for them to be deported. The TPS option was included in the Immigration Act of 1990 that Congress approved, to temporarily protect people whose countries were experiencing armed conflict, environmental disasters, or extraordinary and temporary conditions. Ideally, this benefit would allow those migrants in irregular status to have work permits, and it would prevent any deportation due to violations of immigration lawfor people in the United States at the time the measure is approved.

The decision can be made by Congress, provided that the law is approved at the House of Representatives, then ratified by the Senate and later by the President, as any law of the land would, although it can also be approved via a presidential Executive Order. Until now, only four Latin American countries have received the benefit: El Salvador, Honduras, Haiti and Nicaragua. 

Regarding Venezuela, there have been initiatives and a lot of discussion about the approval of a TPS for a couple years now; these initiatives haven’t been successful, and the Trump administration was rather unenthusiastic about the issue. Many pointed out the discrepancy between Trump’s aggressive policy with the Maduro regime, and the little support given to the growing number of Venezuelans arriving in the U.S. in dire conditions.

How likely this is to happen depends on whether Biden delivers on his campaign promise and grants protection to so many Venezuelans now in a vulnerable situation in the United States.

Yet that very TPS was part of President-elect Joe Biden’s campaign promises. If you look at his proposed government program, immigration is one of the priorities, which is unsurprising considering how hot that topic is in this country. President-elect Biden promised to prioritize a comprehensive immigration reform that would provide a legal pathway for the regularization of 11 million undocumented migrants in the country. His proposals would guarantee protection to DREAMers (people born outside the U.S. who have lived in the country without authorization since first coming in as a minor), and would ensure the strengthening of the country’s asylum system, to promptly consider requests by those seeking refuge in the United States. 

A central issue to his campaign with Latinos also included the approval of the TPS for Venezuelans. Biden’s government plan says it “will extend TPS to Venezuelans seeking relief from the humanitarian crisis brought on by the Maduro regime” in its first 100 days. This is good news on at least two fronts: First, Venezuelans can rest assured that the Biden administration understands the flagrant violations of human rights happening in the country, and how the humanitarian crisis is a factor of expulsion of Venezuelan migrants. Second, it shows that Biden and his team see the current situation as justification enough to grant Venezuelans Temporary Protected Status.

The TPS doesn’t solve the problem in the long run, though; what will happen when the 18 months, which is usually the amount of time these measures last (although there could always be renewals), expire? What about people whose kids were born in the U.S.? What if they don’t want to go back, or can’t?

How likely this is to happen depends on whether Biden delivers on his campaign promise and grants protection to so many Venezuelans now in a vulnerable situation in the United States. Honoring and delivering on promises is what we expect and we, Venezuelans in the country, have a role in making sure this all turns into reality. 

I, for one, am doing my part.


* Opinions are personal. They do not represent those of the Organization of American States (OAS).